A high-level Chinese security ministry official was arrested in Hong Kong and is accused of spying for the United States and giving away state secrets, according to reports. The incident may be one of the most serious intelligence breaches for the Communist Party in decades.
The minister, who was not named, was a private secretary to an unnamed vice-minister in the Ministry of State Security (MSS) and was arrested earlier in the year, according to Reuters, which cited three insider sources, and overseas Chinese media reports.
The official allegedly passed on classified information to the CIA for several years on topics relating to China’s spying activities, the report said. The person spoke English and was reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The CIA recruited the person to obtain and pass on “political, economic and strategic intelligence” in the Ministry of State Security, which oversees domestic and overseas intelligence gathering, a source told the news agency.
“The destruction has been massive,” one of the sources was quoted as saying.
The news was published a few days ago in the World Journal and Xinwei Monthly, both overseas Chinese publications.
The official was reportedly a 38-year-old graduate of Beijing University and had access to the top levels of the Chinese bureaucracy. The official provided information about China’s foreign spy network, the Telegraph reported.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the individual arrested may have been the secretary to Qiu Jin, a deputy minister in the MSS. Qiu Jin was the official who flew from Beijing to Chengdu deal with the Wang Lijun crisis.
According to Ming Jing, the official whose secretary was arrested was not Qiu Jin but Lu Zhongwei. There was no way to verify the competing claims. Xinwei Monthly reported cryptically that there are “in total 350 people wrapped up in the spy case.”
Around three years ago, the official was apparently tricked by a female CIA agent and was later blackmailed to pass on information to the CIA. Officials in the security ministry last year were tipped that there was an insider in their agency and drew the aide out with a series of deliberate leaks.
While the White House and State Department have declined comment, a senior administration official quoted anonymously by the New York Times on Friday said that the China’s top leaders started investigating the Ministry of State Security after Chongqing top cop Wang Lijun attempted to defect to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu city in February. The incident brought down Wang’s boss, former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai. The administration official told the Times there are allegations of corruption and security services being used improperly by various officials.
One of the vice ministers who the aide had contact with was Gao Yichen, who was involved in the deputy directorship with the “610“ office, a state security apparatus set up in 1999 to persecute adherents of Falun Gong, a meditation practice. Gao left the agency in March.
Zhou Yongkang, a Politburo member and the head of the sweeping Political and Legislative Affairs Committee, oversees the “610” office.
If the sources are correct, it could be the most serious spying case between the U.S. and China since Yu Qiangsheng defected to the U.S. in 1985. At the time, Yu said that a former CIA analyst was conducting espionage missions for China and later killed himself in 1986 in a prison cell before he was to be sentenced for spying.
In another serious incident, former Chinese spy Li Fengzhi, who worked for the Ministry of State Security, quit the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2009 after defecting to the U.S. Li told The Epoch Times at the time that Chinese officials continually harassed and threatened him, but he urged fellow members of the intelligence agency to also quit the CCP.
The U.S. and China have both remained silent on the matter, with neither giving statements to the media about the intelligence breach or the officials involved in the incident. It was unclear in the Reuters report if the official was able to hand over information to compromise Chinese intelligence operations.
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