By Hamish McDonald
October 2, 2006
NEWLY revealed efforts by China's military to get the secrets of a
Brisbane company's revolutionary new rapid-fire gun are the latest in
what one intelligence expert calls a "hoover"-style espionage operation
The Chinese sweep for technology is providing a heavy workload for
traditional counter-espionage for the Australian Security Intelligence
Organisation, despite its shift of priorities to counter-terrorism.
Beijing orchestrates a broad range of business, academic and personal
contacts, as well as intelligence gathering by officials posted to
embassies and consulates from the Ministry of State Security and the
People's Liberation Army 2nd Department. And the country sends an
incessant stream of information-gathering "delegations".
Mike O'Dwyer, the inventor of the Metal Storm gun that is capable of
firing a million rounds a minute, said on Channel Nine's Sunday program
he had been offered $US100 million ($134 million) to move to China.
"What I was expected to do in Beijing was to divulge all the knowledge I
had to enable prototypes to be built for the weapons system to be
developed," Mr O'Dwyer said.
As well as this direct approach, the program revealed another offer made
by an executive named Min Qiang at a Beijing recruitment company, FESCO,
which is known for its official links to an Australian-Chinese
businessman, Jun Yang.
"He said 'Mr Yang, we have a proposition for you'," Mr Yang told the TV
program. "'The Chinese Liberation Army wants to buy Metal Storm. It's
very advanced technology. When you return to Australia we want you to
purchase it for us."'
Metal Storm, the company developing the weapon, is listed on the
Australian Stock Exchange. The novel gun has been cited in a United
States defence report as a sensitive technology to be protected by the
US and its close allies.
The Chinese espionage effort seems to have been exposed because Mr Yang
joined the Falun Gong meditation movement, banned in China, which is
doing its best to undermine Beijing's image worldwide. Yesterday's
report coincided with China's national day.
Colonel Russell Smith, a former Australian defence attache in Beijing
and now Australian manager for Jane's Information Group, said he was not
surprised by the revelation, or what it said about Chinese intelligence
"Wherever there is technology, the Chinese will be there, to try to
hoover up it up in whatever way, shape or form they possibly can,"
Colonel Smith said.
He disputed a claim on the Sunday program that China's military build-up
was taking the West unawares. "It is something which consumes a lot of
organisations right across the Western intelligence world," he said.
Nor did he accept Mr O'Dwyer's belief that Australian security agencies
took the spying on Metal Storm too lightly.
"It would be unknown to him, but I would be very confident our
organisations and agencies are well across what's going on," Colonel
Smith said. Australian agencies had protective measures in place, he
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