Australia is losing the battle against China’s ‘citizen spies’

Australia is losing the battle against China’s ‘citizen spies’, by Aaron Patrick.

Call it “citizen spying”. Hundreds – perhaps thousands – of Chinese government sources act as a giant human vacuum cleaner, sucking up intelligence to be digested in Beijing. Even the smallest scrap of information might be useful.

Chinese security services are engaging the most intense collection of intelligence by a foreign power Australia has ever seen. And Australia does not have the resources to stop it.

Spying in Australia today is probably as intense as during the Cold War, security officials say. But it’s a new form of intelligence gathering. …

Some one million Chinese citizens visit Australia every year on tourist visas. Thousands already live in Australia, and many come and go for business and mix with Australians at all levels of society. They are free to go anywhere an Australian is, and there are far too many for the security services to monitor.

“Chinese Australians doing business in China are very susceptible to pressure from the legal system in a way round-eyes aren’t,” says Paul Monk, an intelligence expert and author of Thunder From the Silent Zone: Rethinking China. “They put pressure on Chinese Australians, saying ‘you are ours’.” …

The top targets are commercial secrets, such as negotiating positions on gas and iron ore prices, and sensitive government information, including secrets held by the Defence Science and Technology Group of the Department of Defence and CSIRO, security sources believe.