China says CIA spy uncovered after recruitment by US in Italy

Chinese soldiers patrol the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China [File: Reuters]

China’s Ministry of State Security says Chinese employee of military-industrial firm was recruited by the CIA in Italy.

China has uncovered an alleged spy for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a Chinese national who worked for a military-industrial group and was offered money and immigration to the US in exchange for sensitive military information, Beijing’s Ministry of State Security said.

The Ministry of State Security said in a statement on Friday that a 52-year-old named Zeng had been sent to Italy for studies, where he befriended a CIA agent stationed at the US embassy in Rome.

The embassy official convinced Zeng to provide “sensitive information on the [Chinese] military” in exchange for “a huge amount of compensation” and assistance for Zeng and his family to move to the United States, the ministry said in the statement published online.

Zeng was found to have signed an espionage agreement with the US and received training before returning to China to carry out espionage activities, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported.

CCTV said “compulsory measures” had been taken against Zeng, but did not give any further details.

China’s state-run Global Times media outlet reported that the alleged US embassy employee’s name was “Seth” and he had cultivated a relationship with Zeng through “dinner parties, outings, and operas”.

“Zeng gradually became psychologically dependent on Seth, and Seth took advantage of this to instill Western values into Zeng. Under Seth’s solicitation, Zeng’s political stance was shaken,” Global Times reported.

“As the exchanges between the two gradually deepened, Seth revealed to Zeng that he was a member of the CIA’s Rome station,” the newspaper said.

Zeng’s case has been sent to China’s state prosecutors, it added.

The US embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news agency.

US-Sino relations have soured in recent years over a range of issues including national security.

Washington has accused Beijing of espionage and cyberattacks, a charge that China has rejected.

China also declared that it is under threat from spies and has stepped up its oversight of what it deems espionage activities.

Early this month, the state security ministry said the country should encourage its citizens to join counter-espionage work, including creating channels for individuals to report suspicious activity as well as commending and rewarding them.

The ministry said a system that makes it “normal” for the masses to participate in counter-espionage must be established.

Last month, China introduced an anti-espionage law which bans the transfer of any information related to national security and interests without defining those terms.

The new law alarmed the US while the European Union ambassador to China had said in May he was not sure the opening up of the Chinese economy was compatible with the counter-espionage law.



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