China Diplomat: Beijing Running Spy Ring

Two Chinese defectors — one of them a diplomat who walked away from his post — claim that their homeland is running a spy network in Australia and other Western countries.

The diplomat, Chen Yonglin (search), left his job as the first secretary at the Chinese Consulate-General in Sydney last month to seek political asylum in Australia. Chen, 37, claimed China ran a ring of 1,000 spies in Australia involved in illegal activities including abducting Chinese nationals and smuggling them back to China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has dismissed Chen's claims as slander.

But a second Chinese official seeking asylum in Australia, Hao Feng Jun (search), backed Chen's claim of a Chinese spy network in Australia in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. television late Tuesday.

Hao, 32, said he was a member of China's internal security police engaged in the suppression of dissidents before he came to Australia in February as a tourist and sought asylum.

"I worked in the police office in the security bureau and I believe what Mr. Chen says is true," Hao told the ABC through an interpreter.

"They send out businessmen and students out to overseas countries as spies. They also infiltrate the Falun Gong (search) and other dissidents groups," he said.

The government has yet to rule on asylum applications of either Chen or Hao, which complicate bilateral relations as Australia and China negotiate a free trade agreement.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Chen's application would be judged on its merits.

"If Mr. Chen is genuinely somebody in need of protection, then he will receive that protection," Downer said.

The opposition Labor Party has called for a government briefing on the Chinese spy claims and for the government to reveal how many Chinese officials were claiming asylum in Australia.