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The executive chairman, founder and major shareholder of the listed Hong Hong company accused of running an international espionage network for Beijing was educated at one of China’s most notorious and “top secret” military technology universities.

We can also exclusively reveal Australia’s two major espionage scandals – that of Wang Liqiang, the defecting self-confessed Chinese spy who exposed the alleged espionage cell, and that of Melbourne businessman Bo ‘Nick’ Zhao, who died in mysterious circumstances in March after telling authorities that Chinese agents were trying to plant him in federal parliament – are linked by China state-owned conglomerate China Everbright Group.

Last week Nine Network broke the story of Mr Wang Liqiang, who claims that before defecting he had been an agent working for Hong Kong listed company China Innovation Investments Limited (CIIL), which he said was a front for Chinese espionage activities, including the theft of military technology secrets, being carried in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.

As we revealed last Wednesday, CIIL is run by China Everbright Securities (HK) Limited, which is an arm of the Beijing-based and Chinese Communist Party-owned China Everbright Group.

The executive chairman of CIIL is Mr Xiang Xin, who co-founded the company and has been an executive there for almost 17 years, since January 2003.

Company accounts CIIL has filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange state Xiang Xin holds a “Bachelor Degree in Science and a master(s) Degree in Engineering from Nanjing University of Science & Technology”.

Nanjing University of Science & Technology is one of what is known as the ‘Seven Sons of National Defence’, a group of seven Chinese universities which have “deep roots in the military and defence industry”, according to highly-regarded think-tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

ASPI recently published research detailing over 160 Chinese universities which were linked to state security apparatus, operating “defence-focused laboratories in civilian universities” and gave them ratings based on their level of risk and the level of “security credentials” they had been awarded by the Chinese government.

Nanjing University of Science & Technology received the highest possible risk score from ASPI.

Of the 160-plus universities analysed, it was one of just eight deemed both “high risk” and “top secret” in the ASPI analysis.

The defence arm of the Chinese government bestowed security credentials on the universities, and the clearance level determined the type of military research, and other related state-secret activities, that could be conducted there, according to ASPI.

“The Seven Sons stand at the forefront of defence research in China,” the ASPI report states.

“Hundreds of their scientists sit on PLA (the Chinese People’s Liberation Army) expert advisory committees and assist or even serve in major military projects, such as fighter jet or aircraft carrier programs.”



Nick Zhao who died in March this year in unexplained circumstances, aged 31, after telling Australia’s counter-intelligence security agency that Chinese agents were trying to plant him in federal parliament was, in his early 20’s trying to sell $15 million of shares in China Everbright Bank over the internet.

Everbright Bank is an arm of China Everbright Group, as is China Everbright Securities (HK) Limited, the operator of alleged espionage and foreign interference network CIIL.

Zhao, a Liberal Party member who had been a businessman and a luxury car dealer in Melbourne, was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room in March this year.

His death, the cause of which remains undetermined, occurred after he reportedly told security agency ASIO that Chinese operatives had offered him $1m to run for pre-selection for the Victorian federal seat of Chisholm.

An article, which appeared on page two of the physical edition of The Australian newspaper on Saturday, noted Zhao had 11 years ago posted on a Mandarin language online messaging board “an offer to sell millions of shares in a major Chinese brokerage firm Shenyin and Wanguo Securities and in China Everbright Bank”.

It continued: “He again offered to sell 20 million shares in Everbright in another forum post in 2012”.

Based on the price of China Everbright Bank’s shares at that time, 20 million shares was worth about $15m.

The article did not identify Everbright as the company running the alleged spy operation exposed by defector Wang Liquang.

The connection is expected to raise more serious questions about China Everbright Group and its operations.

Those questions include why a young man in his early 20’s, who would later die in mysterious circumstances after making allegations of serious Chinese government interference, would be offering for sale, over an online messaging board, $15m worth of shares in a bank owned by the Chinese Communist Party.

At the time China Everbright Bank shares were trading openly on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Other questions that remain unanswered include whether ASIO had offered or given any protection to Zhao after he told them he had been offered a bribe to run for parliament.

At the time of his death, Zhao is reported to have been facing possible prison sentence over a string of fraud offences, some of which were related to his dealings in luxury cars.

Yesterday we revealed banking regulator the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority had in December last year granted China Everbright Bank a licence and it had since set up shop in Sydney.


Gladys Liu

Adding more fuel to the fire, on Friday photos emerged of Mr Nick Zhao attending a Liberal Party event at the home of Gladys Liu in early 2016.

Ms Liu has said she has “no recollection” of seeing Mr Zhao at the event.

At the May federal election, two months after Mr Zhao died, Ms Liu won the seat of Chisholm for the Liberal Party. We are not suggesting the events are related.

Ms Liu, who is Australia’s first Chinese-born Australian MP, has come under fire after records surfaced showing she was previously a member of each of the Guangdong and Shandong chapters of the China Overseas Exchange Association, known foreign influence arms of the Chinese government.

Ms Liu initially said she did not recall being part of the Association, but shortly afterwards announced she had resigned from Guangdong Exchange and other groups.

In her application for Liberal Party pre-selection, Ms Liu stated she had “raised over $1m for the party”.

She has been called on to disclose the identities of all donors but has as yet failed to do so.

Ms Liu is expected to be grilled by the ALP this week, Federal Parliament’s last sitting week for the year.



Shares in Hong Kong-listed, alleged espionage cell CILL had their biggest day of trading in almost three years on Wednesday last week as investors rushed to the exits, sending the group’s share price down just over 20 per cent.

On Wednesday afternoon revealed CILL had quietly shut-down at least four of its five investment operations, most of which had been operating for almost a decade.

Just over two hours later, CILL released a notice to the stock exchange stating that two of its non-executive directors had resigned, and that as a result it was now in breach of its listing obligations.

CIIL is listed in on the Hong Kong stock exchange but is actually “incorporated” in the Cayman Islands, a known tax haven. It also has “investment” companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, another tax haven.

The incorporation of those companies in tax havens, or “secrecy jurisdictions” makes it impossible to obtain certain company information from public sources.

CIIL describes itself as a Hong Kong-based “investment holding company” that is “principally engaged in the investment in dual usage of military and civil sectors”.

Western security agencies have warned China is heavily involved in using “military-civil fusion” projects to steal military technology.

Wang Liquang says he worked for CIIL in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia and that the company was used by the Chinese Communist Party to steal military technology and to conduct covert foreign influence campaigns.

Wang said CIIL was run by the Chinese military.

Focus Taiwan News Channel today reported Taipei government had approached Australian authorities seeking information Wang had provided Australia about CIIL’s alleged influence activities in Taiwan.

It was also reportedly seeking information about CIIL executive chairman Mr Xiang Xin and his wife Kung Ching, who is an “alternate director” of CIIL.

Taiwanese authorities detained the couple as they were preparing to fly out of the country last week, which was after Wang’s claims became public.

This article first appeared at

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