With just two days until Taiwan’s presidential election , the island has been roiled by reports that a self-professed mainland Chinese spy seeking asylum in Australia received death threats to retract his claims of Beijing-directed political interference in Taiwan. On Thursday, the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sought to use the claims and counterclaims to gain political mileage in what has been a fiercely contested race between the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen , who is seeking a second term, and her main challenger, populist Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu . Voting will take place on Saturday and also include legislative elections. Self-professed spy William Wang Liqiang made headlines in November when he told Australian news outlets, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, that he had worked on behalf of a Beijing-directed foreign interference ring targeting independence and democracy movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Wang was back in the news this week when The Age reported that he was threatened with being sent back to the mainland and killed unless he publicly retracted his claims. According to The Age , Wang, who fled to Australia in May and is seeking political asylum, was told in a series of messages that his family would be spared punishment and the debts he had incurred on the mainland would be repaid in return for a retraction. The report said KMT deputy secretary general Alex Tsai and a mainland businessman surnamed Sun were suspected of coordinating the directives to Wang, who was also given a script and told to record a video message in which he would claim that the DPP had bribed him to lie by offering him “a large sum of money”. Wang alleged earlier that Beijing was supporting Han and helped fund his mayoral race in the southern city of Kaohsiung in late 2018. Wang also said that Hong Kong-based China Innovation Investment chairman Xiang Xin and his wife Kung Ching were spies for Beijing. Wang’s claims of being ordered to disrupt the elections have become a key issue in the presidential election. Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province that must be brought back to the mainland fold by force if necessary, has publicly denied Wang’s claims and said he was a convicted fraudster. On Thursday, the KMT was swift to deny it had threatened Wang or coerced him to record any message attacking the DPP. “I have nothing to do with the [threat],” Alex Tsai said in Taipei. He said the mainland businessman – whom he identified as Sun Tianqun – apparently told Wang he could give him money to help repay his debts so that Wang would retract what Sun saw as a fake account by Wang about Xiang and Kung. Kung and Xiang, whom Sun reportedly described as a close friend, have been detained in Taiwan since they visited the island in late November. Alex Tsai also said that according to Sun, the DPP bribed Wang to accuse Xiang of being a mainland spy. But Tsai admitted that he did not hear the bribery allegations directly from Wang. The DPP responded by flatly dismissing the claims, saying it was not involved in the Australia case. “These people have kept alleging that the DPP is involved in the [Wang Liqiang] case. What exactly do they want to achieve? Is this an attempt to … save Xiang Xin and disrupt the elections?” DPP legislator Kuan Bi-ling said. Deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang said that his ministry had already sought judicial cooperation with Australia over the Xiang case and that the Australian authorities had responded positively. “We have also received a request for an identification check of [Alex] Tsai from the Australian authorities, and have already provided them with the information they need,” Chen said. Security and diplomatic sources in Taiwan had cast doubt on Wang’s earlier claims, saying that although his allegations sounded plausible he was too young to be the senior operative he claimed to be. In response to questions about threats against Wang, an Australian Federal Police (AFP) spokesman was quoted by The Age as saying: “The Australian Federal Police is aware of threats made against a man currently residing in Australia. The AFP takes threats of this nature seriously and has commenced an investigation.” Analysts said there were various ways the new claims could possibly affect the presidential race. “Both camps have accused each other of using the story to sling mud and this might neutralise the harm for both sides as the story appears to be more like a tall tale,” said Wang Kung-yi, a political-science professor at Chinese Culture University in Taipei. “[One way to assess] if the new story will affect the race [is through] the number of supporters showing up in the election rallies … for Han and Tsai [Ing-wen].” Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.