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Would-Be Chinese Defector Details Covert Campaigns in Hong Kong and Taiwan

Seeking a job, he ended up at an investment firm called China Innovation Investment Limited, run by Mr. Xiang. Mr. Wang wrote that the company was in fact a front for an arm of China’s Ministry of National Defense to conduct a range of political and economic espionage.

Mr. Xiang, 54, is an owner or top director at more than a dozen Hong Kong companies. Some of the companies are co-owned by his wife, Gong Qing, whose biography includes positions at two government-tied institutions. One of those was the China National Science and Technology Information Center, a military intelligence organization within the People’s Liberation Army.

Asked to comment, Mr. Xiang denied any knowledge of Mr. Wang. “I never knew Wang,” he wrote in an email.

China Innovation Investments is registered in the Cayman Islands and publicly traded in Hong Kong. The company focuses on both private and public investments related to the “integration of military and civil sectors,” according to company documents. Mr. Xiang is the chairman and Ms. Gong is listed as an alternative director.

The operations in Hong Kong Mr. Wang described occurred before the protests erupted. He said he became disillusioned when he was tasked to travel to Taiwan in May to take part in operations related to the coming election. He received a false identity with a South Korean passport and a predated French visa, which was mailed to him from the National University of Defense Technology in Hunan Province.

His wife, also a painter, moved to Australia to study in 2012, he wrote. After visiting her and their child in December 2018, he decided to defect and seek asylum.

It is far from clear that he will receive it.

In 2005, Chen Yonglin, a Chinese consular official, sought asylum, promising to divulge details of China’s spy network. The Australian government initially rejected his request, prompting a parliamentary inquiry. It found that he was told the denial was “for reasons of foreign affairs.” Mr. Chen’s application was later approved.

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