NTDTV: During his recent visit to Canada, Chen Yonglin–the Chinese diplomat who defected in Australia–pointed out that the Chinese embassies in North-America control and use the Chinese Student and Scholar Associations (CSSA) for ulterior motives such as spying. More and more evidence for this Chinese embassy's control has surfaced lately. What's your viewpoint on this and how would you relate this to the Chinese Student Association Leuven (CSAL) case in Belgium where similar accusations were made in 2005?
Moniquet: I think that the first thing to mention is that in fact all countries are using espionage, but China is doing it in a very aggressive and extensive way. The Chinese secret services work exactly as the Soviets did. They have the Ministry of Public Security and a special intelligence branch in the army. Both are controlling a lot of organizations abroad, and especially they are controlling journalists and students.
A lot of Chinese study outside China nowadays and tens of thousands of young Chinese are working abroad and they are organized in groups like the student associations which are all linked to the Chinese embassies, usually through the cultural affairs department. It's normal that the Chinese people want to keep a link with their homeland, but it's clear that the People's Republic of China uses this technique to pass on orders to the Chinese abroad and use the students for spying or propaganda activities.
We had a very clear case in Belgium a few years ago. The Chinese Student association in Leuven (CSAL)–an important university city–was under investigation, which I think is still ongoing, because they were accused of spying. The CSAL is connected to the Chinese embassy.
NTDTV: It is known that in the US, the FBI is aware of the existence of these CSSA 'agents' and follows them closely. How would you estimate the awareness of this phenomenon in Europe? What's the policy of the European countries in general and Belgium in particular?
Moniquet: Very sadly Europe can not be compared with the US on this point. The US has a very clear policy towards security issues. Notwithstanding the commercial relations they have with China they made it very clear to China that spying in the US cannot be allowed and that whoever gets caught will face jail time or be in serious trouble.
Sadly in Europe it's not the same. Most of the European countries that deal with China, like France, Germany, the UK, Italy, etcetera, know very well that the Chinese secret service is working very hard in their country to steal industrial or commercial secrets, but in the same time they do not want to harm the relationship they have with China.
So, in most Chinese spying activities that were uncovered in France, Belgium and Germany the authorities didn't make a big noise because they wanted to avoid trouble with China and not disturb the commercial relations. Basically the US show a strong image, while we are showing a weak image, which of course is not very good for us.
NTDTV: Actually we had a very good example in dealing with China, where the Canadian Prime Minister spoke out strongly about the human rights situation in China and in the end the Chinese regime had to give way.
Moniquet: Yes, our mistake in dealing with China is that we don't stand by our principles. We should make clear to them that we want to have commercial relations with them but that there are certain things they cannot do, such as spying or trying to influence the Chinese communities living in Europe or threaten and manipulate the local Chinese people.
I think that standing by our principles, and even imposing sanctions like expelling diplomats if they are caught in spying activities, would not harm the existing business relationships.
Of course, the Chinese authorities would publicly deny any accusation and threaten to break up the business relationship, but at the end of the day they need our trade. So we could be stronger and draw a clear line like the US and Canada does.
NTDTV: As you mention China is not the only country that engages in economic espionage, but the People's Republic of China is more unique in a way that it also exports the policy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to control it's own population.
Moniquet: Absolutely. The point is that China today is not exactly what we could call a democracy. There have been some changes. One cannot say that China today is exactly the same as 25 years ago, but it remains that China is not a democracy, so China exerts pressure on the Chinese people when they are abroad. They can be forced to spy or to follow the Chinese embassy's policy by warning them that otherwise their family in China might get into trouble.
A democratic country will never do this. This is not taken enough into consideration by the European policymakers. In dealing with a country that is not a democracy one must adopt a certain attitude and make it abide as much as possible by our standards and not the other way. I'm afraid that in trading and dealing with China, all to often, we close our eyes and look the other way.
NTDTV: According to your experience what kind of policy would you advise the authorities to adopt in dealing with the Chinese student associations being used as cover and front organizations by the Chinese regime?
Moniquet: I can tell you that when we advise our clients in the private sector we tell them to be extremely cautious when they hire Chinese students or Chinese trainees and we advise them to not let those Chinese students or trainees have access to certain technology or specific knowledge. Of course, this is a pity for China but we must do this because we know that too much technology has been stolen by Chinese agents.
I think first of all Europe must have a clear policy and a unified manner of acting in confronting the Chinese spying problem, and say to the Chinese that we want to work with them and give Chinese students opportunities in our countries, but when we catch a Chinese student or diplomat in spying activities or stealing technological secrets it will be the end of the game and sanctions will follow.
NTDTV: In dealing with political espionage it might be a good idea for the European countries to implement a policy by which agents who want to opt out–which is difficult for them since they are often pressurized into being an agent for the Chinese regime–are granted asylum after they defect. To our knowledge this kind of policy is not applied yet in western-European countries.
Moniquet: Sadly this is not an official policy for Europe at the moment. I think we should grant them and their family political refugee status like we did during the time of the Soviet Union. This could be a good tool to contain and limit the capacity of the Chinese espionage system.