To Root Out Foreign Spies From China: Cash Rewards for Informants

China's National Security Bureau released a video warning people not to be lured by spies. (Image: Screenshot)
China's National Security Bureau released a video warning people not to be lured by spies. (Image: Screenshot)

China’s National Security Bureau is offering large cash rewards to citizens who report foreign spies. A national hotline, #12339, has been available for citizens to report suspected espionage since November 2015.

However, starting on April 15, under a newly introduced “Measures on Rewards for Citizens Reporting Leads on Espionage Conduct”, citizens will be given up to 500,000 yuan, or about US$73,000, if their reports are useful.

According to an article in Beijing Morning Post, the reward system is meant to build an “anti-spy iron wall”:

The new measure stresses that the identity of those forwarding along tips would be keep anonymous, and ill-intended reports would be subjected to a fine.

The National Security Bureau also released a video via various outlets instructing citizens on what to be on guard for, and explaining the details of the reward system. The video hosted on China Central Television’s social media account on Miaopai attracted more than 450 million views in one day.

Propaganda officials began advising the Beijing public to be on the lookout for foreign spies last year. One of the cartoon posters they released, titled “Dangerous Love,” warns Chinese women against being seduced by foreign men who have undercover motives.

According to the counter-espionage law passed in 2014 and the foreign NGO management law passed in 2016, it can be considered an act of espionage to work for organizations that receive foreign funding without the prior approval of the government.

In the past two years, a number of foreigners have been arrested for “posing a threat” to national security. In January 2016, Peter Dahlin, a Swedish human rights activist, was expelled from China after 23 days in detention. The more recent cases are the arrest of Taiwanese human right activist Lee Ming-cheh and the detention of Australian-based Chinese professor Feng Chongyi.

The China Youth Communist League was among those on popular social media platform Weibo that cheered the reward system, doing so with a rap song. The league’s followers on Weibo reacted to the video by pointing at liberal public opinion leaders’ negative comments about China as an act of espionage.

Below are some of the most liked comments on the video thread:

Some supporters of the Youth League started naming public intellectuals as spies in the comments section:

In another news discussion thread on Weibo, voices were more critical:

This article by Oiwan Lam originally appeared on Global Voices.

[Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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