The Nanfang / Blog


Guangdong Man Jailed Ten Years for Spying Via Internet Browser

Posted: 05/6/2014 10:11 am

Holy crap: anything that you see and watch can get you in trouble in China. Even if it is non-privileged information. Even if it is your own information.

A Guangdong national surnamed Li has been convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison for disclosing state secrets to a foreign spy, reported state media.

When we first heard this story we didn’t think too much of it. After all, we expats are having too much fun to be concerned with espionage. But the details of the story started to hit home once it was revealed that the spy material deemed as ”state secrets” came straight from the internet.

This is how the spooks worked: a foreign spy only known by the online handle “Feige”, (“Brother Fly”?) had Li funnel him military information taken from subscriptions to websites such as a military enthusiasts community accessible only from mainland China. In all, Feige organized 12 people in Guangdong and some 40 other people throughout China to gather this information for him.

If you thought espionage was performed by the likes of James Bond or Jason Bourne you’d be grossly inaccurate. Feige’s online operation of a human RSS feed was termed a “foreign spy ring” by China Daily.

Just by using the internet, Li was able to obtain 13 highly classified documents ranked at the second-highest tier of secrecy in China, and 10 classified military secrets from the third tier. By standing near military bases with a camera to help Feige monitor them, Li posed “a serious threat to the country’s military security”.

Wow. We’d perhaps suggest not publishing sensitive military information on websites, but then only foreign shows like The Big Bang Theory get banned online.

We’d also suggest that expats not gather sensitive military information when browsing on the internet (stick to porn), nor watch the many fine military-themed shows on Chinese state television that tell us how great the Chinese military is, nor watch locally made versions of Top Gun and Apollo 13 with Chinese characteristics that espouse the greatness of the Chinese air force and space program via a multi-generational family melodrama, nor even to take part in the viral meme of pointing off-screen with your back to the camera that celebrates China’s new aircraft carrier.

And if you thought that paying for privileged information means that you own it, the New York Times reminds us otherwise (emphasis added):

Chinese courts have sometimes ruled that materials readily available within the country can be considered classified. Xue Feng, a Chinese-born American petroleum geologist, was sentenced to an eight-year prison term in 2010 for buying a database that his lawyers said was made secret only after Mr. Xue purchased it for IHS Energy, a consulting firm based in the United States.

For our part, the Nanfang will continue to provide its readership only the best of China’s declassified content.

Photo: Kym-Cdn

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