An Australian state lawmaker says he is not suspicious in a police investigation into unidentified people who are promoting China’s goals in Australia
CANBERRA, Australia – An Australian state lawmaker said on Monday that he was not suspected of a police investigation into unidentified people who were advancing China’s goals in Australia, days after his home and office were searched by the police.
Shaoquett Moselmane, a member of the New South Wales opposition Labor Party, said he was informed that the investigation was investigating other people suspected of working with China and that he denied any wrongdoing.
“I have never harmed the welfare of our country and our people,” he said at a news conference.
Police did not say why they searched Moselmane’s home in Sydney on Friday and also executed a warrant for their parliamentary offices.
Australia has accused China of trying to interfere in its domestic policy, allegations that have strengthened relations and led Australia to pass new national security laws in 2018 that prohibit foreign interference in domestic policy and make industrial espionage for a foreign power a crime. .
Moselmane said on Monday that he would cooperate with the Australian Federal Police in the investigation, but would also exercise his right to remain silent.
“I am under no illusion that this is a serious investigation,” he said.
Moselmane denied media reports that he had accepted Chinese government-funded trips to China.
In April, he retired as assistant mayor of New South Wales after praising Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He said that Xi demonstrated “unshakable leadership” and determination.
Moselmane said on Monday that his views on China’s pandemic treatment were consistent with those of the US president and vice president and the World Health Organization.
Police declined to comment on Moselmane’s press conference, saying in a statement: “As this investigation continues, there will be no further comment.”
State Labor Party leader Jodi McKay said membership in Moselmane is being suspended. Moselmane said he would leave parliament until the police investigation was completed.
The Global Times newspaper, controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, on Monday accused Australia of “waging an intensified espionage campaign against China”.
The newspaper quoted a Chinese law enforcement source as saying that Australia was sending agents to China to spy, gather information and “recruit assets”. Australia has been described as “the thief who is crying, stop the thief”.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to comment on the report.
“I would not trust Chinese state media for their sources of questions,” Morrison told a reporter who asked him about the Global Times’ allegations.
Morrison described the attacks on Moselmane as a “very serious problem” for the police and the Australian Security Intelligence Agency, the country’s main domestic secret service.
“We introduced our foreign interference laws because we don’t want Australia’s political system or any other part of the country to be interfered with,” said Morrison.
Morrison described Moselmane, a 55-year-old Lebanese immigrant who was mayor of a Sydney municipality before being elected to Parliament in 2009, as “a very, very old and relatively senior person” within the Labor Party.
Less than two weeks ago, Morrison said that a “sophisticated state-based cyber actor” was targeting Australia in a growing cyber campaign that threatened all levels of government, businesses, essential services and critical infrastructure.
Most analysts said Morrison was referring to China, but the prime minister would not indicate the country.
High tensions between Australia and China were raised by the pandemic.
In recent weeks, China has banned beef exports from Australia’s largest slaughterhouses, closed the Australian barley trade with a tariff barrier and warned its citizens against visiting Australia. The measures were interpreted by many as punishment for Australia’s defense of an independent investigation into the origins and spread of the pandemic.
Australia’s foreign minister accused China of using anxiety over the pandemic to undermine Western democracies, publicizing disinformation online, prompting China to accuse Australia of disinformation.