Ma Jian, Former Vice Minister of China’s Spy Agency, Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

Ma Jian, Former Vice Minister of China’s Spy Agency, Sentenced to Life Imprisonment
Ma Jian, former vice minister of China's chief intelligence agency, Ministry of State Security, shown in court during a broadcast of China's state-run television, CCTV. (Screenshot via Reuters)
Annie Wu

A former top Chinese security official has been sentenced to life imprisonment as part of a crackdown on  corruption, at a court in Liaoning Province on Dec. 27.

Ma Jian, former vice minister at the Ministry of State Security—China’s chief intelligence agency—was convicted of accepting bribes, insider trading, and making “coercive” business deals, the court in Dalian said in an announcement on its website.

Ma, 63, also will be fined more than 50 million yuan ($7.28 million) and is to be stripped of his assets.

In 2012, Chinese leader Xi Jinping initiated a sweeping anti-corruption campaign to rid the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of misbehaving officials—who were often also his political enemies. Hundreds of thousands of CCP members, from the most powerful Politburo members to low-ranking cadres, have since been sacked.

China’s security apparatus was especially targeted for harboring such characters. Ma is one of the most senior security officials to be punished since former security czar Zhou Yongkang was fired then sentenced to life imprisonment, in June 2015.

The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is highly secretive and conducts spy operations in service of the Chinese regime’s goals, such as stealing highly valuable intellectual property from the West.
The agency has recently made headlines in the United States for being the mastermind behind cyber attacks on U.S. companies and government agencies. Several individuals, including an MSS officer, have been indicted on federal charges.

The court determined that Ma had accepted more than 100 million yuan in bribes in exchange for helping businesses.

Ma also earned almost 5 million yuan from trading stocks based on insider information.

The court especially pointed out that Ma had helped exiled business tycoon Guo Wengui, who has made headlines with his explosive claims about top CCP officials. Guo is also wanted by Chinese authorities on charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering, and others.

To help Guo’s companies, Ma threatened individuals into transferring company shares, giving up priority buying rights, and other business activities, according to the court.


Ma was placed under investigation by the CCP’s anti-corruption body in January 2015, about the same time that Zhou and his associates were also being investigated. Zhou was a key member of a political faction—known as the “Jiang faction” for its loyalty to former CCP leader Jiang Zemin—that opposes Xi’s leadership.

Citing anonymous sources, the Financial Times reported at the time that Ma’s wrongdoing involved Zhou’s corrupt business dealings in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

As Ma spent most of his long career in the security apparatus, it isn’t surprising that he would have ties with Zhou—who ruled over China’s police and courts during his tenure.

Hong Kong media have also reported that Ma was promoted through the ranks, thanks to Zeng Qinghong, the former vice chair and right-hand man to Jiang. When Zeng became head of the Organization Department—an agency that makes staffing appointments—in 1999, he promoted dozens of officials, including Ma, according to the media reports.

The Epoch Times also previously reported that Ma and Guo worked together with the security czar of Hebei Province to pressure local businesses into doing their bidding.

Annie Wu joined the full-time staff at the Epoch Times in July 2014. That year, she won a first-place award from the New York Press Association for best spot news coverage. She is a graduate of Barnard College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.