Australian politician denies being a suspect in China probe
Investigation is about other people advancing goals of the foreign power, Shaoquett Moselmane tells media
Sydney — An Australian politician whose home and office were raided by the federal police and an intelligence agency said the probe is part of a foreign interference investigation focused on China and that he is not a suspect and has done nothing wrong.
Australia passed foreign interference legislation in 2018, spurred in part by a classified Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) report on Chinese influence activity, sparking anger from Beijing.
On Friday morning, federal police searched New South Wales (NSW) state politician Shaoquett Moselmane’s home and parliamentary office in an investigation Prime Minister Scott Morrison linked to foreign interference.
“The investigation is into certain other people allegedly advancing the goals of a foreign government, namely the People’s Republic of China,” Moselmane told a media conference on Monday
“My allegiance is first and foremost to Australia.”
An Asio representative said on Friday the agency had conducted “search warrant activity” in Sydney as part of an investigation that “does not relate to any specific threat to the community”. Asio did not provide any further details of the raids or the reason they took place.
Moselmane earlier this year attracted criticism from fellow Australian politicians for praising Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have done nothing wrong,” said Moselmane.
“I have no access or knowledge … on any of the laws or secrets of the state. Nor was there any campaign on my part to change the ALP’s China policy.”
Moselmane is a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) opposition in NSW.
Moselmane said that while there has been much talk about his travels to China, he has never been on a Chinese government-sponsored trip.
He said six out of nine trips he has taken to China involved the delivery of wheelchairs to disabled children for a charity he was involved in and that he paid for his airfares and accommodation.
Moselmane said he is someone who spoke up for the Chinese community, as well as the “downtrodden”, including Palestinians and Rohingya Muslims. He said he has questioned China’s representative in Australia directly about the treatment of Uighurs in China.
Australia’s ties with China, its largest trading partner, have become strained after Canberra pushed for an international inquiry into the source and spread of the coronavirus that first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
China has imposed dumping tariffs on Australian barley, suspended some beef imports and warned its students and tourists against travel to the country, citing racism accusations.
Australia believes China is behind a spate of recent cyber attacks, three sources familiar with the government’s thinking told Reuters earlier this month. Beijing has dismissed the suggestion.
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