Archive for Australia
China has accused the US states of spying on its foreign officials in an apparent effort to negate negative publicity about Chinese cyber espionage. The claims were made in a report by the national broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), which also alleged the country’s embassy in Australia was bugged by the US when it was built. The report followed the sudden return to Beijing of China’s Ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu, on Monday for “a meeting”. CCTV also said China’s decision to ban government use of Windows 8, Microsoft Corp’s latest operating system, was because of “risks of being monitored and controlled remotely”. CCTV interviewed Chinese foreign ministry official Zhou Jingxing, who said the ministry had been a victim of US espionage, which resulted in email problems. He did not talk specifically about the Chinese embassy in Australia. China and the US have traded accusations on espionage and computer hacking for years. But the debate intensified earlier this month following Washington’s decision to lay formal charges against one of China’s alleged cyber-hacking units. On May 19, the US Department of Justice charged five Chinese military officials with corporate espionage and computer hacking and placed them on the country’s most wanted list. The latest claims about the Chinese embassy in Australia are not new. In 1995, the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australian intelligence officers and US National Security Agency technicians had put bugging devices in the embassy during its construction. They were repeated in a report released this week by China’s State Internet Information Office. which was titled America’s Global Surveillance Record.
Australia denied a media report on Tuesday that China’s ambassador had been recalled to Beijing on short notice. Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu, had been unexpectedly summoned to Beijing for consultations. But Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Ma had not been recalled. A Chinese embassy spokesman confirmed that Ma had returned to Beijing on Monday, but described the trip as “just a normal duty.” “He has to go back every year many times to report; that is normal,” said the spokesman, who declined to give his name. He could not say how long Ma would be away.
Indonesia’s ambassador has returned to Australia, in a sign tensions could be easing between Canberra and Jakarta since spying revelations last year. Nadjib Riphat Kesoema was recalled six months ago by a furious President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono after it emerged Australia had spied on the president, his wife and inner circle. A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed the ambassador was back in Australia. His return is the first significant sign of a thaw in diplomatic tensions between Australia and Indonesia since President Yudhoyono suspended normal co-operation on high-level issues in late November. Indonesia demanded Australia sign a code of conduct before the two countries start working together on people-smuggling, defence and intelligence sharing. President Yudhoyono has said he hoped the deal could be done by August, and the rift between the two countries could be resolved. The ambassador has been making more frequent trips to Canberra as negotiations on the code of conduct have progressed.
Australian-based ZANU PF writer Reason Wafawarova could be forced to pay as much as $200,000 in damages for claiming that a former Zimbabwean envoy to that country stripped in front of embassy staff. Former ambassador Jacqueline Zvambila filed for a lawsuit in 2011, claiming that Wafawarova defamed her when he published the article in the Zimbabwean state media in 2010. Zvambila said the article had followed her everywhere and that her name had been stigmatised while dignity had been taken away from the country. The Supreme Court in Australia struck out Wafawarova’s defence in December after he failed to provide relevant documents and after he breached other court orders. That decision paved the way for the April costs hearing, during which Wafawarova attempted to stop the lawsuit from going ahead. During that hearing Zvambila’s lawyers submitted before the court that Wafawarova was liable to pay between $175,000 and $200,000 in damages, including costs. According to the Canberra Times newspaper, a judge then reserved the decision on the amount to be paid to Zvambila, who is also claiming asylum in Australia.
Indonesia said it would send its ambassador back to Australia this month in a bid to normalise relations after a spying row that has soured ties between the two countries. Indonesia recalled its ambassador in November in the wake of reports that the phones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his inner circle had been targeted by Australian spies. But tensions appeared to thaw as Indonesia announced its decision to return its envoy following a phone conversation between Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier this week. “The president and the foreign minister have thought for a while about my returning to Canberra and we plan that I return this May,” the ambassador, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, told AFP. Abbott called Yudhoyono to express his regret after axing a trip to Bali for a conference. The call was viewed as a bid to thaw ties damaged by Canberra’s border protection policies and the spying row. Jakarta had reacted furiously to the news of the spying, halting cooperation in key areas including defence and people-smuggling.
The Chinese Consulate-General in Sydney denounced as false Australian media reports of Chinese spies inside Australia’s leading universities. Earlier on Monday, The Sydney Morning Herald published a report about Chinese espionage in Australian universities, prompting Australia to strengthen its counter-intelligence capabilities. A spokesperson in the Chinese Consulate-General in Sydney issued a statement, claiming that the report distorted the facts. “There is no factual basis for the report. There is a serious distortion of Chinese students studying in Australia and living situation in the report, which has greatly hurt the feelings of the majority of Chinese students and aroused their strong indignation and anxiety,” the statement said. At present, China and Australia have active exchange in education and China has become Australia’s largest international student source, according to the statement published on the consulate-general’s website. The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday published a report titled “Chinese spies at Sydney University,” which said China is building large covert informant networks inside Australia’s leading universities. It said much of the monitoring work takes place in higher education institutions including Sydney University and Melbourne University where over 90,000 students from the Chinese mainland are potentially exposed to ideas and activities not readily available at home. The report quoted a former Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia in 2005 as saying that Chinese diplomats set up Chinese student associations at each university, appointed leaders, and ensured they were well-funded.
Australia and Britain have embarked on even closer foreign relations co-operation to save money, agreeing to share embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan and combine aid projects. The decision to co-locate embassies — made at the Australia-UK Ministerial meeting in London this month — is expected to deliver a significant reduction in security costs for both nations. The cost to the Australian taxpayer for a separate Australian embassy in Baghdad is $45 million a year, with the Kabul embassy costing $50m. When the embassies are colocated the premises and security will be shared but diplomatic and consular services will continue to function separately.