9 Jun 2005

Retired academic claims big Chinese intelligence presence in Pacific

3:51 pm on 9 June 2005

A retired Cook Islands academic says China has spies in the Pacific region, but the extent of their presence is unclear.

Professor Ron Crocombe says he believes China has one of the largest monitoring systems in the region.

His comments come amid claims by a Chinese diplomat in Australia that China is involved in large scale espionage.

The diplomat has sought political asylum in Australia following his disclosure.

Professor Crocombe says questions surround the Chinese embassy in Kiribati which was meant to close in 2003 when Kiribati switched diplomatic recognition to Taiwan.

But he says staff known as caretakers are still there, and so is a senior embassy official.

"They're using it to suck in all the opposition politicians trying to undermine the government, because the government recognizes Taiwan, they're trying desperately to topple that government. But nobody knows what's in that embassy, they won't let anyone in most of those rooms, and there's another building bristling with equipment and nobody's allowed in. I'm surprised the government the Kiribati government doesn't say 'bugger you, we want to know what's going on!'"

Professor Ron Crocombe.