Lawyer Yu & wife formerly arrested
More than a month after lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生) and wife Xu Yan (许艳) were taken away by police for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” the couple were arrested on May 21. Yu’s brother disclosed the news to the public.
At the time of publication, it was reported that the police have added inciting subversion to Xu’s charges. Several sources claimed that Xu’s lawyer was unable to visit her even with a scheduled appointment.
Yu and Xu were en route to an event hosted by the EU officials on April 14. They were followed on the subway and then detained when they refused to comply with a request to not attend the meeting.
Secrecy around alleged cases of state secrets & spying
In late April, overseas news media outlets reported the case of Dong Yuyu (董郁玉), who was placed under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) on February 21, 2022 after meeting with a Japanese diplomat. He was indicted for espionage in March 2023.
Dong wrote political and social commentary for Guangming Daily, a Party propaganda newspaper. Part of his job as a senior editor was to regularly meet with diplomats and other journalists to inform his own prolific writing.
It is unclear when Dong will stand trial. The charge related to his alleged offense is shrouded in secrecy and can carry a prison sentence of 10 years or more. Such trials are typically conducted behind closed doors.
The month of May marked Yuan Keqin’s (袁克勤) fourth anniversary in custody and second anniversary since being indicted for espionage. The Chinese government has not provided new information about the case or about Yuan, who taught history in a Japanese university.
Yuan was taken into custody in June 2019. About 10 months after his disappearance, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry confirmed that Yuan had “made a full confession to his crimes.” The spokesperson said the evidence was clear but did not elaborate on what that evidence was. At a recent regular press conference on May 26., the spokesperson again claimed she is not aware of specifics of Yuan’s case. Yuan obtained permanent Japanese residency but remains a Chinese national. According to a Japanese news outlet, at least 17 Japanese nationals have been detained for allegedly engaging in espionage since 2015.
The aforementioned cases underscore the increasing risks journalists and academics face in China when they engage in activities that are meant to facilitate discussion or better understanding but that can be perceived as problematic by ill-defined national security elements or concerns.
The eighth national state security education day
April 15 is China’s National State Security Education Day, and 2023 marks the event’s eighth anniversary.
Official propaganda disclosed six recent examples of security violations and called on the public to be vigilant. Though not always the case, the 2023 examples disclosed the full name of several offenders.
The case that drew most attention is that of an aerospace expert named Zhao Xuejun (赵学军) who worked as a researcher at a state institute, with clearance for classified information. According to the news, his downfall can be traced to 2009 when he attended an exchange study program in a western country. Zhao was targeted by intelligence agents. One of the agents invited Zhao to dinner and befriended him. He also paid Zhao for consultation fees on aerospace “projects.”
Before Zhao returned to China, the agent confessed his identity and offered Zhao money (US$1,000 per month) to continue providing sensitive information about China’s aerospace programs. Zhao was shocked by the revelation but also felt his expertise wasn’t appreciated at the institute. He chose to cooperate with the foreign agency.
Zhao collected many documents and received tens of thousands of dollars. He was placed in custody in June 2019. In August 2022, Zhao was convicted of espionage and sentenced to seven years in prison with three years of DPR.
Another case involved a local level government clerk in Xinjiang. Han Xiao (韩潇) met a “friend” through an app while traveling aboard in 2016. Han often complained online about his low salary. The friend then introduced him to opportunities to make “extra bucks.” Han was asked to provide sensitive information on party and administrative organs and, eventually, to provide internal documents. According to the news, Han provided a total of 19 classified documents, including five that contained intelligence, and received more than 120,000 yuan. Han was sentenced to 11.5 years in prison for espionage.