The Chinese government has labelled Australia a “fervent intelligence gatherer”, as it accuses Canberra of a mass scale espionage project that is “jeopardising others’ sovereignty and security”.

In a statement sent to Australian media on Tuesday morning, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said a report in the Global Times which claims Australian spies in China are instigating defections, spying on Chinese students and feeding fake news to the media to hype up theories about Chinese spying, is only “the tip of the iceberg”.

Lijian accuses Australia of playing “the part of the victim” publicly, despite “peddling rumors and stoking confrontation by staging a farce of the thief crying ‘stop thief’.”

He warns that Australia’s behaviour has “long crossed the line”.

“The Five Eyes intelligence alliance has long engaged in cyber espionage, spying and surveillance on foreign governments, companies and individuals in violation of international law and basic norms for international relations. This is not a secret to anyone. And Australia, an important member of the Five Eyes, has been a fervent intelligence gatherer in relevant countries. I am afraid that what is revealed by the Global Times this time is just the “tip of the iceberg”.

“Some people and media in Australia are enthusiastic about producing such sensational stories as “China spying on and infiltrating Australia”, yet they can not justify their stories with any solid evidence.

“In contrast, irrefutable evidence abound to prove Australia’s operation of spying activities in China. They steal information and data from other countries, jeopardizing others’ sovereignty and security. But they play the part of the victim, peddling rumors and stoking confrontation by staging a farce of the thief crying “stop thief”.

“They have long crossed the line. They owe an honest answer to the Chinese people and the international community,” he said.

Lijian was responding to a story, which the Chinese Communist Party-backed Global Times based on an anonymous source from a Chinese law-enforcement agency, that said Australia tried to install wiretaps in the Chinese embassy in Canberra.

The story published photos of “spying materials” including a compass, a USB flash drive, a notebook, a mask, gloves and a map of Shanghai, said to have been seized from arrested Australian agents.

The article also mentioned embattled NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane, whose home was raided by federal police as part of an Asio investigation over his alleged links to China, noting the politician held a “friendly stance on China publicly”.

With AAP

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