A Chinese intelligence official has been detained on suspicions of spying for the United States, according to reports in the Hong Kong media.
The official was identified as an aide to a Vice-Minister in the Ministry of State Security, which is responsible for both domestic and overseas intelligence. The reports could not be confirmed, and both Chinese and U.S. officials have, so far, neither confirmed nor denied the reports. Hong Kong's New Way magazine said the official, who reportedly starting providing intelligence to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) following a posting in the U.S., had been suspended.
“What is unbelievable is that the person involved in this spy case is a secretary to a Vice-Minister who is handling China' s top secrets, which means all the confidential documents sent to the Vice-Minister pass through the secretary first,” the magazine was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.
An unidentified source told Reuters that the aide had provided “political, economic and strategic intelligence”, and had been detained between January and March of this year. He had reportedly been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars .
The reported case comes at a time when two sensitive diplomatic disputes have strained ties between China and the U.S. In February, the former police chief of Chongqing, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, triggering a major political scandal. And, in April, visually challenged rights activist and lawyer Chen Guangcheng escaped house arrest and sought protection in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
If confirmed, the case will rank as the most prominent spying incident between China and the U.S. since 1985, when an intelligence official defected to the U.S. and also identified for the U.S. a CIA analyst who had been spying for China.