Chinese Media Shows Subway Map, Compass as Evidence of Alleged Australia Spy Ring

Chinese state media has accused Australia of running a spying effort in China that was disrupted by authorities two years ago, claiming money and maps found on suspects as proof of the supposed "espionage offensive."

Global Times—a nationalist paper owned by The People's Daily newspaper which is the Chinese Communist Party's official publication—claimed Sunday that Australia is "waging an intensifying espionage offensive against China."

The newspaper accused Australia of "sending agents to China to spy, gather intelligence and recruit assets, instigating defection among Chinese nationals, spying on Chinese students and organizations in Australia, feeding fake news to media to hype up the 'China espionage theory' and even in early years attempting to install wiretaps in the Chinese Embassy in Canberra."

Global Times cited an unnamed Chinese law enforcement agent for the allegations and its assertion that Australia "is a veteran in spying against other countries."

The newspaper said Chinese counterespionage agencies "will take more vigorous countermeasures to crack down on Australian espionage operations to safeguard China's national security and interests."

But Australian media noted the innocuous nature of the espionage equipment photographed as proof of wrongdoing. Global Times posted an image of U.S. dollars, Chinese Yuan, a USB stick, a notebook, a compass, and a map of Shanghai's subway network reportedly seized from detained Australian agents in 2018.

The Global Times caption for the photo read: "Intelligence funds, spy tools and maps discover [sic] from Australian spies."

Global Times accused Australian intelligence agencies of setting up an espionage station at its embassy in Beijing, which is "the most senior level one in East Asia" and also coordinates Australian spying activities in other regional nations.

Tensions between Australia and China have risen in recent months following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Australia has been at the forefront of an international push for an independent investigation into the origin and course of the outbreak, angering China which claims it is a victim of disinformation and racism. Beijing later agreed to support an investigation but at a time of its choosing.

Since then, Chinese authorities introduced new trade barriers on Australian goods including beef, barley and coal. Earlier this month, China's Education Bureau warned Chinese students not to travel to Australia to study due to the risk of "racist incidents."

Asked Monday about the Global Times allegations, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "I wouldn't be relying on Chinese state media for your sources for questions," ABC News reported.

China has been accused of running its own espionage and influence operations in Australia. Australian Federal Police last week raided the home and office of Shaoquett Moselmane—a member of the opposition Labour Party from New South Wales state—after allegations that Chinese agents had infiltrated his office.

Moselmane has denied all wrongdoing and said he is not a suspect in the ongoing investigation.

China, Australia, state media, spying, evidence, espionage
This file photo shows an Australian flag outside the Great Hall of the People on April 9, 2013 in Beijing, China. Feng Li/Getty Images/Getty