Spies Are Everywhere

China Military
Zhang Tao

Editor's Note: Plots that are often seen in films like spying, monitoring, lurking, undercover investigation and taking pictures secretly seem quite far away from us, but spies are actually everywhere in the real world and they have imposed severe damages to the national security interests.

A clear-minded tour guide discovered doubtful points from a trail of clues and uncovered the truth of a "geological exploration team". The tour guide reported the case and was awarded for this. A college student, also a military fan, answered questions on a paid basis on the Internet, and forged the confidential answer to a question, which was later pierced by the other party. The student later reported the case and was relieved from the predicament.

These appear to be the clichés in a play, yet they are true happenings around us. Recently, China's national security authorities announced the latest spying cases and uncovered the tactics exploited by current foreign intelligence agencies in aspects of espionage, infiltration and instigation methods and channels.

Case I: Mysterious "geological exploration team" at the mountain top

The strange behaviors and staff composition of a group of mysterious people claiming themselves to be a geological exploration team looking for geothermal resources in mountains aroused the suspicion and vigilance of Mr. Zhang, a tour guide. After careful considerations, Mr. Zhang made a call to report his concerns.

"Exploration team" caused vigilance of a tour guide

Mr. Zhang is a tour guide in a city of southern China. He leads tour groups during the peak tourist seasons and transports goods in his small van for others to earn some service fees during the off-season.

On March 9, 2016, when Mr. Zhang was sitting in the cab resting during a goods delivery to his friends, a middle-aged woman came to his van, saying she wanted to rent the van. At 2:00 p.m. on the same day, Mr. Zhang came to a hotel as agreed and picked up six or seven persons.

Following the instructions of his passengers, Mr. Zhang drove to the mountains far away from the city. About half an hour later, the van arrived at an open space at the top of the mountain and pulled over by a large truck that had stopped there. The passengers on the van began to unload goods from the truck.

According to the truck driver, there was only one passageway at the scene and a total of more than 20 large and small boxes were all around. There was a canopy over the generator.

Having been in the tour industry for many years, Mr.Zhang knows the basic requirements that do not inquire about the privacy of the customers. But out of his social experience, he thought that they might be a geological exploration team in academic research.

Out of curiosity, Mr. Zhang deliberately paid attention to exchanges between these passengers. At this time, an accidental discovery made him feel something unusual.

"There seem to be several foreigners," Mr. Zhang said. Mr.Zhang had talked with the truck driver privately about the intention of these people and the truck driver said he had worked with these guys for four days in the mountains and chatted with them briefly. They claimed themselves to be exploring for geothermal resources.

But Mr. Zhang was not persuaded by this explanation. He, as a local resident, had never heard that there were hot spring resources in the mountains. Moreover, even if there were such resources, why were foreigners making the explorations?

What was more puzzling was that if a foreign exploration team is engaged in scientific research in China, they should contact the local authorities for help, instead of carrying out the work independently.

Mr. Zhang began to get on the alert. He noticed that it was a very tacit team, doing things in an orderly manner.

Temporary change of the route as a test

As a native, Mr. Zhang knew that there is a railway in this mountain which is said to transport military supplies. In addition, there is also a military base around one kilometer away from there.

"They might be able to draw some clues from the deployment of military supplies," Mr. Zhang thought. At this time, a detail added to his doubts.

When the “team” finished their work, someone said some line or something “is not well hidden”. Someone else answered "I have hidden it well".

The word “hide” made Mr. Zhang convinced that they were not scientific research personnel, but had something not to be divulged. He suddenly thought of the spy.

Mr. Zhang has worked for more than ten years and has certain judgment abilities. But it was too hasty to identify them as spies with the doubts above.

Then, Mr. Zhang decided to make a test.

After the completion of the measurement work in the afternoon, Mr. Zhang deliberately changed the driving route when sending them back to the hotel to pry into the other side’s knowledge in local geography.

Out of expectation, the middle-aged woman suddenly got anxious and asked Mr. Zhang about the change. Mr. Zhang cleared the doubts with the excuse of "cutting corners”.

Only a few people know the remote mountain roads, but how could these people be so familiar with it? Even if they were conducting scientific research, they should work with the local competent departments and had no way to know so clearly about the routes.

An award of 15,000 yuan for timely reporting

Mr. Zhang was not sure whether he should report this. If he reported it and it turned out to be a false alert, will it be a joke? But if he ignored it, he just could not give a satisfactory explanation of what he had seen.

Having weighed the pros and cons, he made up his mind to figure out what was going on even if it might turned out to be a misunderstanding. Mr. Zhang detailed his suspicions during the call to 12339, China's anti-espionage hotline for reporting spying activities. The national security authorities attached great importance to the case and highly affirmed his report. After the investigation by the national security authorities, the clues that Mr. Zhang provided were proved true.

This so-called "exploration team" is suspected of stealing important military secrets of China. Mr. Zhang, thanks to his carefulness and vigilance, found a potential security risk.

The national security authorities awarded Mr. Zhang a certificate of merit, and 15,000 yuan for his outstanding performance in this matter. It is also hoped that more people will pay attention to suspicious people or things around us and stay alert for safeguarding the national security.


Case II: Espionage hidden in online Q&A

A college student surnamed Xu made acquaintance with a mysterious person who generously offered money to him for answering questions online. However, the increasing reward money conceals a secret.

Increasing reward money

Increasing reward money Xu is a college student, but also a military enthusiast. He is famous in the circle of military enthusiasts and he often becomes the leader in online discussions. But this interest of Xu has almost brought him unpredictable danger and disaster.

Xu recalled that someone in the online discussion group asked the information of the “two sessions” while they were discussing a military subject in March, 2016.

The “two sessions” refers to the National People's Congress (NPC) of the People's Republic of China and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that usually held in March every year.

At that time, the “two sessions” have not begun yet. Xu wasn’t sure why that person was so interested in the “two sessions”. In order to continue the online discussion, Xu talked to the person in private.

That person claimed to be someone in a school who wanted to know some information and the upcoming policy about two sessions. Xu summarized possible hot topics based on media reports and sent them to that person.

Surprisingly, that person showed a great deal of interest and promised to pay Xu. Later, Xu received 150 yuan from that person.

It is the first time for Xu to receive economic reward after years of answering military questions online. Xu also understood that the information were from online sources and were not of great value.

Then Xu integrated the information of the “two sessions” in previous years, removed some details and sent them to that person to earn the pay. The person turned out to be very satisfied and told him to continue to find such information.

Later, Xu received a reward of 150 yuan for the second time. A few days later, the person showed up, asking for military information and said the corresponding remuneration will be substantially increased to 15,000 yuan.

At that time, Xu was still unclear of the identity of that person. The reward of 15,000 yuan is so tempting, though Xu felt that he was falling into a trap gradually. He still decided to give it a try because he thought it was not guilty of summing up public information.

Temptations of money

After receiving tasks to collect all the information on the military bases and the aircraft, Xu understood what the person could be. When Xu was hesitating, the person transferred a deposit of 1,000 yuan and promised to pay the balance of it as long as he was satisfied with the information.

Xu had to bite the bullet and casually searched a few models and related data and compiled them in an Excel. In order to make the information more real, he used the image editing software to make the documents look confidential. He then printed out the documents and sent them to the mysterious person.

However, this time, the person said that some of these models have not existed or already changed names.

Finally, Xu realized that he might have encountered a spy and the like, and things are much more complicated than he thought. At this time, the other side began to ask the progress very often and offer money to Xu.

"The most concerned part is not knowing when the other person will stretch out to me and have my families implicated," said Xu.

He regretted having connection with someone that might steal China’s secrets for the temptation of money. At the same time, Xu was very glad that he did not give the mysterious person any valuable information.

Report to the authorities

In order to get rid of this dilemma, Xu reported this to 12339, China's anti-espionage hotline for reporting spying activities.

"I fear that I may have violated the law and will be taken away. But I think it is more important to report the mysterious person, to find him and catch him because he may be connected to many people," Xu said.

China's security agencies introduced that Xu timely stopped the connection with that person because of the seriousness of the matter, and actively reported to the national security authorities. Otherwise, that thing could have developed in an uncontrolled manner. At the same time, the information provided by Xu did not involve the state secrets, so Xu did not break the law.

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