Chinese authorities on Monday publicly accused a government worker of spying for the CIA, the second high-profile espionage case publicized this month as Beijing ramps up its emphasis – and rhetoric – on national security.
In a statement, the country’s civilian spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, said it is investigating a cadre at an unidentified ministry who was allegedly recruited by the CIA while he was studying in Japan.
The 39-year-old Chinese national, identified only by his surname Hao, became acquainted with a US embassy official in Japan while applying for a US visa, the ministry said.
The US official allegedly developed a close relationship with Hao by treating him to meals, sending him gifts, and paying him to help write a research paper, according to the statement.
The ministry claimed the US embassy official then introduced Hao to a colleague, who later revealed himself to be a CIA officer and asked Hao to return to China to work for a “core and critical department.”
Hao allegedly agreed, signed an espionage agreement with the US and received training, the statement said.
Upon returning to China, Hao landed a job at a government ministry, and allegedly met with CIA agents multiple times to “provide intelligence and collect espionage funds,” the Chinese spy agency claimed. It said the case is under further investigation.
The statement came just 10 days after the same ministry claimed it uncovered another Chinese national spying for the CIA – a worker at an unidentified Chinese military industrial group who was allegedly recruited while studying in Italy.
The statements on both cases were released by the Ministry of State Security on WeChat, China’s super app, where it set up its first public-facing social media account earlier this month.
The secretive agency, which overseas intelligence and counterintelligence both within China and overseas, has taken on a higher profile to warn the Chinese public against espionage.
In its debut post on WeChat, the ministry called on “all members of society” to join its fight against espionage and offered rewards and protection for those who provide information.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made national security a key priority to counter what he sees as growing threats from “foreign forces” – especially the United States – to undermine China’s rise and political stability.
The US and China have long spied on each other but the recent deterioration in ties between the world’s two largest economies has supercharged this rivalry.
Earlier in August, two US Navy sailors in California were arrested for allegedly providing sensitive US military information to Chinese intelligence officers.