The Taipei Times reports the alleged capture of high-ranking Chinese officials in a “honey trap” set by a Taiwanese intelligence operative. The story was uncovered by American diplomatic cables recently released by Wikileaks.
When Chinese authorities announced that former Chinese minister of finance Jin Renqing (金人慶) was stepping down in August 2007, they claimed he was doing so for “personal reasons.” According to a series of classified US diplomatic cables recently released by Wiki-Leaks, the real reason behind Jin’s resignation was his romantic involvement with a woman who was linked to several other prominent Chinese officials. That woman, it is alleged, was a Taiwanese intelligence operative.
One of the cables, sent by the US consulate in Shanghai and dated Sept. 7, 2007, described how some members of the top echelons of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would pass mistresses around and how one woman — described by a US official as “a promiscuous socialite” — had been involved romantically with at least three of them.
Aside from Jin, former Sinopec Corp (中國石化) chairman Chen Tonghai (陳同海) and former Chinese minister of agriculture Du Qinglin (杜青林) were suspected of ties with the woman.
Du resigned abruptly in 2006, while Chen was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in July 2009 in a corruption case involving millions of US dollars. After his resignation, the Chinese State Council transferred Jin to a government think tank, where he was made deputy chief.
A Taiwanese general who had fallen into a similar trap was indicted in May for passing intelligence across the Strait. From the AFP, following the general’s arrest:
Army major general Lo Hsien-che was allegedly recruited while stationed in Thailand between 2002 and 2005, drawn in by a honeytrap set by the agent, then in her early 30s, said the China Times, citing unnamed sources ….
“Lured by sex and money offered by the spy, Lo was recruited by China to supply top secret information he handled,” the paper said.
The woman, described by the paper as “tall, beautiful and chic,” held an Australian passport and initially pretended to be working in the export and import trade when she met Lo, who was already married, the paper said.
Under current regulations, Taiwanese agents who spy for China or another foreign country face up to life imprisonment even if they surrender to the authorities, which is a major disincentive to those who regret their betrayal and want to make amends.
Under the amendment, agents recruited by other countries and “the enemy” would have their sentence reduced or would be pardoned if their reporting to the authorities could prevent damage to Taiwan’s security or interests.
“The recent major espionage cases … have underscored the shortcomings of the existing law,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), who initiated the legal revision, said in a statement.
According to reports in 2008, an aide to visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was similarly compromised.
The aide, a senior Downing Street adviser who was with the prime minister on a trip to China earlier this year, had his BlackBerry phone stolen after being picked up by a Chinese woman who had approached him in a Shanghai hotel disco.
The aide agreed to return to his hotel with the woman. He reported the BlackBerry missing the next morning.
Chinese spying on Britain has not abated since, with MI5 recently declaring that China “represents one of the most significant espionage threats to the UK”.