China launches new website that lets users report ‘foreign spies’

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

China has ramped up its crackdown on foreign espionage with a new website in both Mandarin and English that allows users to report alleged threats such as collusion with foreign countries that endangers the country’s “sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security.”

The website, www.12339.gov.cn, which was launched by the Ministry of National Security on Sunday, lists 21 possible reportable activities, including activities “to subvert the state power and overthrow the socialist system.”

The list also includes acts “to dismember the state,” including with elements from outside the country, that could relate to disputed territories — such as the South China Sea or Senkaku Islands — as well as areas such as Tibet, where sovereignty has been debated.

Beijing claims virtually the entire South China Sea, through which $3 trillion in global trade passes each year, and has built up a series of man-made military outposts in the waterway. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims in the waters. It also is engaged in a row over the Japanese-controlled Senkakus, which Beijing calls the Diaoyus, in the East China Sea, and has cracked down on separatist elements in Tibet.

Reportable behavior also includes foreigners meeting any people within China “who have conducted activities endangering state security or being strongly suspected of doing so.” This is likely to raise hackles among rights groups and others claiming they could face punishments for any interactions with dissidents.

According to the site, the government will grant informants”protection” and “reward those who have contributed significantly.” It did not offer details of the rewards.

The website also warned of deliberately fabricating claims, saying that “falsely accusing other people or causing problems in the name of reporting, or interfering with the normal work of the state security organs, will be seriously dealt with.”

The website’s introduction comes days after the release of animated videos created as part of the anti-espionage campaign, including one that tells citizens what suspicious signs to look for in potential spies.

China observed its first National Security Education Day in April 2015 and marked it the following year with a poster warning young female government workers of “dangerous love,” a reference to dating handsome foreigners who could turn out to be spies.