China has denied meddling in Australian politics while urging Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to "discard bias", after the Federal Government yesterday announced a tightening of the country's espionage laws to crack down on foreign interference.
Mr Turnbull announced the legislative overhaul following months of growing concern within Australia's intelligence community about the influence of Chinese Government agents and political donations.
"China always follows the principle of mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs when it comes to developing friendly cooperation with other countries, and this principle holds true for developing bilateral ties with Australia," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
"We have no intention to interfere in Australia's internal affairs or exert influence through political donations."
The legislation will reportedly create a transparency scheme based on the US Foreign Agents Registry, which requires people to declare whether they are working for or acting on behalf of a foreign power.
"Being registered should not be seen as any kind of taint and certainly not as a crime," Mr Turnbull said.
"If you fail to disclose your ties, then you will be liable for a criminal offence."
Attorney-General George Brandis added that the legal definition of espionage would be broadened to make it a crime to possess sensitive information, rather than merely communicating it.
The legislation will also create a new offence of unlawful interference in Australia's political system, including behaviours that would harm the national interest.
While Mr Turnbull stressed that the legislative changes were not directed towards any one country alone, citing reports of Russian attempts to meddle with the United States election, the Government has expressed specific concern about reports of Chinese foreign influence in Australia.
During his press briefing, Chinese FM spokesman Geng Shuang urged Mr Turnbull to "discard bias" towards China from the Government.
"We would like to once again urge the Australian side to discard bias and look at China and China-Australia relations in an objective and fair manner," he said.
"The sound and steady development of the China-Australia relationship serves not only the interests of China, but also those of Australia.
"We hope the Australian side could have a clear understanding of that."