China’s former ambassador to Iceland, Ma Jisheng, is said to have been taken into custody by Chinese state security agents earlier this year under suspicions that he spied for Japan, according to a journalist at a Beijing-linked publication, and a Hong Kong political magazine.
When queried on the allegation the Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to comment. The news was initially published on mainland Chinese websites, but was then later censored.
The Chinese-language political media organization Mingjing News, which several websites, a publishing house, and a number of print publications, and regularly traffics in what it calls political leaks, published an exclusive report recently declaring that Ma Jisheng, former Chinese ambassador to Iceland, and his wife were taken away by Chinese security agents in early 2014, for spying on behalf of Japan.
The report says that Ma was suspected of committing espionage during his service in the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, from 2004 to 2008.
Online biographical data says that Ma was born on March 1, 1957, and specialized in Asian affairs for 20 years; he spent eight years working in the Chinese Embassy in Japan, from 1991 to 1995 and then 2004 to 2008.
Mingjing’s report came out on the same day that Kai Lei, executive editor of the Beijing news bureau at Hong Kong’s Beijing-friendly newspaper Wenweipo, posted on his Weibo account that: “Ma Jisheng was arrested by the Ministry of State Security before his 57th birthday this year, suspected of leaking international secrets to Japan…”
It is unclear why, if he was arrested earlier this year, the information is only emerging now.
Ma left Iceland in January and was supposed to have returned in March, a spokeswoman for Iceland’s foreign ministry, Urdur Gunnarsdóttir, told Reuters. Gunnarsdóttir said that the Chinese Embassy in Iceland announced that Ma wouldn’t return to his post for personal reasons, Reuters reported.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei declined to expand on the matter when questioned on Wednesday. “I have no information on this,” Hong said.
Mingjing’s report was widely republished by Hong Kong media, mainland Chinese media, and major online news portals on Wednesday, including Party mouthpiece People’s Daily and China News. Those articles later began vanishing hours later, however.
Ma’s resume on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Iceland has also been deposited in the Memory Hole: the page where his profile used to be is empty when visited now.
The embassy’s site does carry an article Ma published in a mainstream newspaper in Iceland in February, however, criticizing Japanese officials for their attitude towards World War II.
Ma’s last public appearance was his attendance this January at a ceremony celebrating China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s participation in oil and gas source development in Iceland.
If Ma is found to have been a spy for Japan, it would be the second similar case in recent years involving a Chinese ambassador. The other took place in in December 2006, when Li Bin, former Chinese ambassador to South Korea, was arrested and investigated for leaking intelligence to that country. Li was later sentenced to seven years in prison.