Look over your shoulder — is that a spy?

Proving once again their quaintly mysterious separation from reality, CCP officials today urged their citizens to look under their beds and over their shoulders for menacing overseas spies. (No, I’m not joking.)

In a warning eerily reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, mainlanders are warned that these enemy agents could take any form — tourist, reporter, teacher — but their goal is the same: to disrupt and subvert China’s glorious socialist (with Chinese characteristics) way of life.

Be on lookout for spies, public told

Counter-espionage officials have warned the public and cadres to be on the alert for overseas agents spying in China.

Using their real names, two officials from the Beijing Bureau of State Security joined a discussion on Friday on the Beijing municipal government’s website to promote the National Security Law, introduced in 1993.

The bureau’s legal office director, Guo Wen, said overseas intelligence bodies and hostile forces opposed to the government were targeting mainlanders to expand the scope of their ideological and political penetration of the country and society.

“They take advantage of their legal identities as diplomats, journalists, businesspeople, visiting scholars and tourists to steal information under the guise of media interviews, trade co-operation,
friendly exchange and sightseeing,” Mr Guo said.

He said party members, political and technical research bodies as well as state-owned enterprises were targeted because of their influence and their access to state secrets.

Mr Guo said he was concerned about the lack of public and official awareness of the security issue.

“Some people think some formerly hostile countries are friendly to us nowadays, that people from these countries are friends, and there’s no need to ensure the country’s international security. Some cadres lack awareness. They don’t believe there is espionage in our country and they don’t know how to deal with it. Some even deliberately leak our secrets.”

The officials said people jeopardising state security could be punished under the law.

Mr Guo said the bureau had uncovered many cases involving spying and the stealing and leaking of state secrets since it was set up in 1984.

“Some cases were reported in the news media. But most of the cases concern state secrets and the trials are behind closed doors,” he said.

In a high-profile case, newspaper editor Shi Tao was sentenced in April to 10 years in jail for providing state secrets to overseas organisations.

Another journalist, researcher for The New York Times Zhao Yan, has been held incommunicado without trial since September on suspicion of leaking state secrets abroad.

There are enemies among us! We must weed them out and treat them with ruthlessness!

Honestly, I thought this kind of talk went out 30 years ago. And if you look at the two cases cited, Zhao Yan and Shi Tao, we all know they had nothing to do with state secrets and everything to do with the government’s loss of face.

I go to China in just a little while. In case they try to detain me on espionage charges, I want it on the record that I am not now and never have been a spy and have no intention of subverting the government.

This should be great for tourism!

The Discussion: 13 Comments

I wonder if they are projecting their behaviour overseas (stealing technological secrets from more developed countries) on other people.

“Many of the trials are behind closed doors.” In other words, there was no trial. Actually, even the publicized trials were probably not really trials, the verdict likely having been decided prior to the trial.

And Richard, you should know by now that if they detain you on espionage charges, any “records” you have will be disregarded by the great and eternally correct CCP. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck and might I suggest another location for a vacation?

August 1, 2005 @ 4:45 pm | Comment

Thanks Nolan. No backing outnow; I’ve got my tickets and I’d hope they have bigger fish to catch.

August 1, 2005 @ 5:13 pm | Comment

Hey, Richard, are you still looking for lodgings in Shenzhen? I know an assortment of business-traveler-level places at reasonable, but not cheap prices, and a few in the $30-40 range. Email me with your requirements.

August 1, 2005 @ 5:34 pm | Comment

” ‘Many of the trials are behind closed doors.’ In other words, there was no trial. Actually, even the publicized trials were probably not really trials, the verdict likely having been decided prior to the trial.”

Well, this is really a great theory.
First of all, CCP is evil. If it behaves properly, this must be some kind of trick or disguise to fool us.
Just perfect and invulnerable, isn’t it?

August 1, 2005 @ 7:32 pm | Comment

Haha, I read this story this morning once I woke up, it made me feel… oh so comfortable. Now on top of getting ripped off all the time, being criticized every few minutes for “American hegemonism,” and being suspected of having every STD known to mankind, I also might be suspected of being a spy! Ah… at least the beer’s still cheap here…

August 1, 2005 @ 8:01 pm | Comment


Given the history of the CCP, the presumption is definitely against them. I’m willing, with some countries that have a general history of a proper legal system, to give them the presumption of good intentions. Even then the presumption of good intentions is rebuttable if there is evidence to the contrary.

As for the CCP being evil, I have two words for you: Cultural Revolution.

Finally, if the CCP told me the sky was blue, I’d make damned sure to look outside to check it myself. And yes, I trust them about as far as I can throw them, which is to say, no distance at all since I can’t get to them and even if I did their bodyguards would tackle me before I got within five feet of them.

August 1, 2005 @ 10:26 pm | Comment

what’s interesting is not that the CCP thinks foreigners in china are spying on china — because of cause some foreigners in china are spying on china.
the interesting thing is why the people quoted feel the need to say something about it.
and the answer to that would be pure speculation. as a complete guess, the nature of the comments — on an internet discussion — seem pretty unofficial and, I don’t know, maybe this guy is worried about being forced out of his job and wants to impress his boss?

August 1, 2005 @ 11:40 pm | Comment

prescient. i’m in china spying right now.

August 2, 2005 @ 3:46 am | Comment

I wonder, could this article be about me?

I’ve long been a subversive in China from an ‘enemy nation’.

Maybe I should be abusing my position even more.

August 2, 2005 @ 4:12 am | Comment

There used to be a wierd Canadian bloke in Guangzhou that would always talk about “hostile forces” and reckoned that every second foreign resident was somekind of intelligence agent and every third Chinese person was a counter-intelligence agent.

What if he was right all along and we were all wrong? Just like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory?

August 2, 2005 @ 5:20 am | Comment

I love Martyn because he’s always so reasonable.

August 2, 2005 @ 11:32 am | Comment

this could be a very dangerous turn of events if people actually believe this. some of us foreign teachers operate in more remote areas, and a group of less educated but patriotic farmers might decide to mete out some farmer type justice…scary

August 2, 2005 @ 3:50 pm | Comment

Of course, on the other hand, I’m sure it’s the gov’t attempt to counter the recent Chen Yonglin news, which has, no doubt, incensed the pentagon and Australia to take a second look at how they are looking at Chinese nationals, and who will most probably start sending more agents into China. this is a good way to counter that, and one that takes the blame off the government if anything bad should happen to a CIA agent. Usually CIA agents just get kicked out of the country – diplomatic gentlemanness – but if you can get your populace to rip the guy to shreds then you don’t take the diplomatic fall for it…

August 2, 2005 @ 4:20 pm | Comment

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