Former Chinese Diplomat: Xinhua Part of Spy Network

September 27, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

Former Chinese consulate official Chen Yonglin. (Epoch Times)
Former Chinese consulate official Chen Yonglin. (Epoch Times)
Amorous emails between the Toronto correspondent for China’s Xinhua news agency and a Canadian M.P. have recently focused attention on what role reporters for mainland China’s press actually play in their host countries. A former Chinese diplomat and a former Chinese journalist talked with The Epoch Times about how reporting may serve as a convenient sideline for busy Chinese spies.

The relationship between Xinhua reporter Shi Rong and M.P. and foreign affairs parliamentary secretary Bob Dechert became public knowledge in a big way when, on Sept. 8, emails between the two of them were forwarded from her email account to around 240 Canadian media, academic, and political contacts.

The emails included phrases like, “You are so beautiful,” “[I] enjoyed the drive by thinking of you,” and “I miss you.”

According to Xinhua’s North American bureau chief, Ms. Shi has returned to China on a previously scheduled vacation. Mr. Dechert is said to be keeping a low profile, while discussion in the Canadian press continues about his having exercised bad judgment, whether a formal investigation is needed, and whether he should continue in his sensitive and high-ranking post in foreign affairs.

Mr. Chen Yonglin has observed up close and from the inside the work of China’s reporter-spies. He served in China’s foreign ministry for 14 years, the last four as Consul for Political Affairs at the Consulate-General in Sydney, Australia, before defecting on May 26, 2005.

“At first Shi Rong denied these emails completely, but when Bob Dechert confirmed these emails, she confessed that her husband sent them as part of a domestic dispute. She made it like a family issue, trying to tone down the political impact,” Chen said. “It’s questionable if it was her husband who secretly read her emails, because she had already lied before.”

“When these spies work for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), they become slaves. Once it is exposed, to diminish the international influence, they must sacrifice themselves and even their families to save the CCP’s face. They will do something like that,” Chen said.

‘News Work on the Side’

Chen talked about the multiple roles reporters for the Chinese regime’s state-run media play.

“Some reporters use the profession as a shield, but they also have political missions; to do propaganda, using selective reporting to influence foreign politics. This includes defaming western countries in order to make the CCP look good,” Chen said.

“In addition, they play the role of a spy because Xinhua is actually an outreach organ of CCP’s intelligence agencies. The nature of their work means they must use all means to infiltrate and obtain intelligence.”

The reporters’ services are in such demand, they may have as many as three CCP officials as bosses.

“As part of an intelligence network, Xinhua reporters are often under two different bosses, maybe even three different bosses, mainly CCP officials,” Chen said. “If they were sent by the Ministry of State Security (MSS), then they report to the MSS, if they were sent by PLA (People’s Liberation Army) General Staff Department, then they answer to the PLA General Staff Department; they all have secret missions. At the same time, they help the Consulate with political and propaganda work.”

Chen talked about some of his experiences working with reporters who double as spies.

“If they are sent by MSS or PLA General Staff Department, then they have their own budget, they operate independently,” Chen said.

“For example, once we went to a Pacific Islands Forum trying to influence the talks to favor the CCP’s interests. We worked with the MSS, so they sent some Guangming Daily reporters to get the intelligence,” Chen said. “Right away we got private information about which governments Taiwan had contacted and what agreements they had signed, etc. They wire-tapped phones and used other spying methods.

“In addition, they pretend to interview the presidents of some countries. Since it’s a media interview, that president might lower his guard. Sometimes they pretend to be a scholar as well. The Guangming Daily reporter in Australia was like this; his main job was military intelligence, news work was on the side. Media must serve the CCP, so they are very close to the consulate.”

“The two Guangming Daily reporters who died in Serbia-Montenegro during an explosion were there to collect intelligence, they were there to collect pieces from the downed American stealth fighter,” Chen said. “The reason they went to the battle field was not to do media reporting, but to collect pieces from the stealth fighter.”

Shi’s Assistants

Cao Changqing was deputy editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Youth News in mainland China until he made a bad career move in 1987 by suggesting in print that strongman Deng Xiaoping should retire. Cao was retired instead. In 1995 he moved to New York where he became a highly respected commentator on Chinese politics.

Cao noted that the evidence for Shi’s being more than a reporter was there for everyone to see.

“As a Xinhua reporter, she [Shi Rong] was able to hire three assistants, this will cost at least $100,000; where does this money come from?” Cao asked. “Media reports said these assistants were not employed by Xinhua. Shi Rong herself definitely doesn’t have this much money. This is very suspicious. One might guess that this money came from the MSS.”

“CCP Xinhua News agency is the most powerful, most corrupt news agency in the world, because it uses the name of ‘news agency,’ but does things completely unrelated to news,” Cao said. “In mainland China, Xinhua mainly conducts propaganda. The mouthpiece of the CCP, it is an external agency of the CCP Propaganda Department. Overseas, its job is to collect intelligence, this is widely known.”

“A paper like Guangming Daily, its foreign reporters are sometimes also intelligence people. A senior reporter at Guangming Daily said during a talk at Columbia University that even their chief editor doesn’t know their foreign reporters and they don’t get salaries from there [the paper] either. They are sent by the MSS with the title of ‘reporter.’”

Cao said some of Xinhua’s agencies are underground branches of the CCP. The former director of Xinhua’s Hong Kong agency, Xu Jiatun, was secretary of the CCP Hong Kong and Macao Commission. For someone like Xu, his expertise and experience have nothing to do with news reporting; someone in this position is in charge of intelligence, and leads the local CCP activities, said Cao.

Cao believes that in China the ruling party and media are one entity and have the same relationship as that between brain and voice. Because there are no relevant laws restricting this relationship, China might have the most reporter-spies in the world, Cao said.

Read the original Chinese article.