BEIJING (Reuters) – China likened claims by a Chinese asylum seeker in Australia who said he was a spy for Beijing to an absurd screenplay, accusing Taiwan’s ruling party on Wednesday of manipulating the “concocted” story to boost its chances in a looming election.
The allegations by the self-professed spy Wang Liqiang, reported by Australian media, have rocked Taiwan, after he detailed Chinese efforts to meddle in Taiwan elections and promote Communist Party influence in Hong Kong.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have seized on the accusations to warn of the threat from China, which considers Taiwan to be sacred Chinese territory to be brought under Beijing’s rule by force if necessary.
China has already branded Wang a fraud and said it was nonsense to suggest it was interfering in Taiwan’s January presidential and parliamentary elections. On Wednesday, the government doubled down on that criticism with its strongest words so far.
Speaking at a regular news briefing, Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated that Wang was a fraudster who carried fake travel documents.
“Actually the facts are clear for this ‘fraud who become a spy’. This is a totally absurd, loophole-ridden ‘screenplay’ concocted by anti-China forces,” she said.
“The DPP authorities and the fraudster have bandied together, wantonly carrying out political manipulation,” Zhu said.
“Their intention is to create the illusion of the mainland getting involved in the Taiwan regional elections and obtain improper election benefit for themselves.”
Among several allegations leveled, Wang said he had helped guide positive media attention toward certain Taiwanese politicians, including President Tsai’s main opponent, Han Kuo-yu of the opposition Kuomintang party, which favors close ties with China.
Han, who has said he would drop out of the election if he had taken any money from the Communist Party, said on Tuesday he would sue Wang if he ever came to Taiwan.
Tsai wrote on her Facebook page late on Tuesday that Chinese interference in Taiwan was happening all the time and could not be denied.
“China’s involvement in Taiwan’s elections and infiltration of Taiwan society is something that is happening all the time. My opponent should be aware of this,” she wrote.
“Each of us has a responsibility to stand up and defend the democracy and freedom that belongs to Taiwan.”
(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Writing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)