Australia’s interior ministry on Sunday defended the government’s recent intelligence raids on Chinese agents “masquerading as journalists” in Australia after China condemned the searches.
In June, Australian intelligence agencies raided the homes of four Chinese individuals accused of posing as journalists in Australia. Last Friday, Australia’s trade minister revealed that the agencies “acted on evidence related to a foreign interference investigation,” according to Reuters.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Sunday that the intelligence services have every right to conduct raids on individuals suspected of foreign interference.
“Where ASIO [the Australian Security Intelligence Organization] has sufficient grounds for the execution of a search warrant, or for activities otherwise, then they’ll undertake that activity,” Dutton asserted.
“If people are masquerading as journalists or business leaders or whoever they might be, and there’s evidence that they are acting in a contrary nature to Australian law, then ASIO and the Australian Federal Police and other agencies will act,” the interior minister said.
The Australian government evacuated two Australian journalists from China last week after Chinese police aggressively questioned them, forcing them to take shelter in Australian diplomatic compounds. Soon after, China’s foreign ministry chose to publicly reveal that the Australian government raided the homes of four of its citizens in June. Chinese state media condemned the raids on Saturday.
In April, Australia voiced support for an international investigation into the true origins of the Chinese coronavirus, which Beijing has been accused of trying to cover up. Angered by the action, China imposed retaliatory trade restrictions on Australian products, such as barley and wine, in subsequent months. In response, Australia has imposed stricter constraints on foreign investors in Australia, citing national security concerns. Most observers view these actions as targeting China, traditionally Australia’s top trading partner.