Australia

Shaoquett Moselmane: Australian lawmaker's office raided 'amid China probe'

Shaoquett Moselmane Image copyright ABC NEWS
Image caption Shaoquett Moselmane has been a member of NSW parliament since 2009

An Australian lawmaker is to be suspended from his party following reports his office is facing investigation by national security agencies over alleged links to China.

Authorities raided the home and office of Shaoquett Moselmane, a New South Wales state politician, on Friday.

Police and intelligence agencies said it involved an "ongoing investigation", but did not give further details.

Mr Moselmane, from the opposition Labor Party, is yet to comment publicly.

His leader, Jodi McKay, said media reports that the raids involved possible allegations of Chinese government interference within Mr Moselmane's office were "dreadfully concerning".

"This investigation needs to run its course. He will not sit in our caucus," she told reporters on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he could not go into the details of the investigation but it had been "going on for some time".

"The government is absolutely determined to ensure that nobody interferes with Australia's activities," he said.

"We will stand up to it. And we will take action, as what you've seen today demonstrates."

Earlier, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) and Australian Federal Police (AFP) confirmed the raids in Sydney.

"This activity does not relate to any specific threat to the community," Asio said, adding it would not comment further.

The Sydney Morning Herald, which first reported the allegations, said the investigation had been running for months. No allegations had been proven, the newspaper reported.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Moselmane's office in the NSW Parliament House was raided by police on Friday

Relations between Canberra and Beijing have been particularly fraught since Australia called for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. China has placed economic sanctions on Australia in recent weeks.

It also follows years of debate about alleged Chinese attempts to influence Australian politics - claims Beijing has consistently denied and dismissed as "hysteria"

Australia passed sweeping new security and counter-espionage laws in 2018 aimed at preventing foreign interference in politics and other domestic affairs.

The package included a ban on foreign political donations, as a well as requirements to register foreign lobbyists on a register.

In 2017, an Australian senator was forced to resign following scrutiny over his dealings with a Chinese businessman.

Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also warned that government agencies and businesses were facing an increase in cyber attacks from a "state actor", in remarks broadly interpreted as aimed at China.

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