Hotel Room Surveillance Tip of Iceberg in Beijing

By Neil Campbell
Neil Campbell
Neil Campbell
August 13, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015
The new angled building of the state-run Chinese Central TV (CCTV) headquarters (centre) dominates the surrounding area in Beijing. (China Photos/Getty Images)
The new angled building of the state-run Chinese Central TV (CCTV) headquarters (centre) dominates the surrounding area in Beijing. (China Photos/Getty Images)

British and American intelligence agencies are warning that the Chinese Communist Party is using the Olympic Games as a goldmine for gathering intelligence, extortion and commercial secrets.

Athletes, officials and traveling fans from Britain and the US were advised about the level of privacy and security they should expect during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but the reality could be chilling.

On June 29, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback revealed documents he obtained from several large hotel chains, which were issued by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Public Security Bureau.

The documents demanded that Beijing hotels install invasive Internet communication monitoring tools, or face fines and the loss their operating licenses within China.

One of the documents said, "In order to ensure the smooth opening of Olympic in Beijing and the Expo in Shanghai in 2010, safeguard the security of Internet network and the information thereon in the hotels … it is required that your company install and run the Security Management System."

According to ABC News investigations, a major international hotel chain was asked to install monitoring devices in rooms to allow CCP security agents to spy on guests.

The hotel chain revealed the information to the ABC after being promised the condition of anonymity. This chain has hotels in many of the Olympic host cities, and said that they would install the devices if pressured.

Former Sydney Chinese Consulate employee Chen Yonglin said that the CCP’s extremist surveillance tactics are actually more common than many people realize and started when the Games were awarded to China in 2001. Mr Chen defected from the consulate and the Chinese Communist Party in 2005.

“As soon as Beijing won the bidding for the Olympic Games they started to install security facilities, especially since more petitioners had come to Beijing to appeal,” he said.

“So they installed cameras everywhere in the street, especially at major tourist sites and public areas, and even around all the public amenities. They have used all technologies to monitor [people] and operate the monitoring systems,” he said.

Mr Chen said that the CCP mobilized approximately 200,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for the Games.

The soldiers have temporarily been disguised as uniformed and plain-clothes policeman and are deployed throughout Beijing. He also mentioned that the CCP’s justification for heightened security, that is, warnings of terrorist attacks against the games, is actually a façade.

“Their authority is actually very weak in controlling, so it has mobilized over 200,000 military forces for security of the Olympic Games,” he said. “It escalated its propaganda [campaign], and began warning of terrorist attacks. In actuality if there is any terrorist attack it’s all targeting the corrupted Chinese officials and the government, rather than against the Games."

British intelligence chiefs John Evans of M15 and John Scarlet of M16 issued warnings to official in July about China’s “honey trap” missions.

They said China Secret Intelligence Service had trained more than 1000 of their most attractive female agents to seduce and lure businessmen and officials back to hotel rooms where sensitive documents and electronics could be stolen.

They suggested that the Chinese regime could use the event itself as a form of extortion, because it would be recorded by hidden surveillance equipment.

Their briefing, which identified several Beijing hotels as high-risk locations fitted with surveillance software and cameras, also warned that the “honey trap” operations would target British athletes as they celebrate in Beijing nightclubs.

Officials were also warned that hotel staff could be working as spies for the CCP’s security service. Hotel staff could use a variety of excuses to enter foreigners’ rooms up to five times a day and steal sensitive information.

“That’s natural. In China they use all the ways they can to… for the Chinese officials and businesses they have no ethics at all, and they can do anything when it comes to reaching their goals,” Mr Chen said.

He said the CCP has launched a massive financial initiative to incite Chinese citizens to turn in both domestic and foreign protestors.

In several suburbs, people are paid for any information regarding protests. Each person who reports a petitioner is paid 100 Yuan, and any report against any protest is paid. Mr Chen said that they want to control dissent throughout the entirety of Beijing, from the downtown area to the suburbs.

Chen also said that the CCP has actually spent a remarkable amount of money above and beyond $500 billion Yuan (approx. $73 billion USD) reportedly spent on the Games, much of which has been used on these various surveillance and espionage tactics.

“This is a massive campaign, a massive operation. They’ve spent a huge amount of money, more than the number they claim. It’s more than $43 billion U.S. dollars, more than that.”

Neil Campbell
Neil Campbell