A state security official has been arrested on suspicion of spying for the United States, sources say, a case both countries have kept quiet for several months as they strive to prevent a fresh crisis in relations.
The official, an aide to a vice-minister in China‘s Ministry of State Security, was arrested and detained early this year on allegations that he had passed information to the US for several years on China’s overseas espionage activities, said three sources, who all had direct knowledge of the matter.
The aide had been recruited by the CIA and provided “political, economic and strategic intelligence”, one source said, though it was unclear what level of information he had access to or whether overseas Chinese spies were compromised by the intelligence he handed over.
The case could represent China’s worst known breach of state intelligence in two decades. Its revelation follows two other major public embarrassments for Chinese security, both involving US diplomatic missions at a tense time for bilateral ties. One led to the sacking of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai .
The aide, detained sometime between January and March, worked in the office of a vice-minister in the security ministry, the source said. The spy had been paid hundreds of thousands of US dollars and spoke English, the source added.
“The destruction has been massive,” another source said.
The sources all spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of punishment if identified.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment yesterday.
The sources did not reveal the name of the suspected spy or the vice-minister he worked for, who has reportedly been suspended and is being questioned.
The ministry rarely makes public the names of its officials and does not have a public website.
The incident ranks as the most serious Sino-US spying incident to be made public since 1985 when Yu Qiangsheng, an intelligence official, defected to the United States.
Yu told the Americans that a retired CIA analyst had been spying for China. The analyst killed himself in 1986 in a US prison cell days before he was due to be sentenced to a lengthy jail term.South China Morning Post
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