After China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) debuted on WeChat on Tuesday, calling on the whole society to contribute to counter-espionage efforts, the agency released detailed guidelines on Thursday on how to report and where to report suspected spy activities while emphasizing the importance of punishing espionage and protecting human rights.
The Counter-Espionage Law explicitly stipulates that “any citizen or organization that discovers espionage activities should report them promptly to the national security authorities.” It also requires that “national security authorities should run awareness campaigns including the phone numbers, mailboxes, online platforms, and so on, for accepting reports, promptly handling reported information in accordance with the law, and keep the informant’s identity confidential,” the MSS said in a post on WeChat. It also provided the phone numbers and website to report and handle relevant reports.
Regarding individuals who are coerced or deceived into engaging in espionage activities abroad, the Counter-Espionage Law has explicitly outlined measures for education and rescue. It stipulates that “those who are coerced or deceived into joining espionage organizations or hostile organizations abroad, and engage in activities harmful to the national security of the country, can avoid prosecution if they promptly report the true situation to the diplomatic missions of China abroad, or directly or through their units to the national security authorities upon entry back in China, and demonstrate remorse.”
National security authorities should keep the information of those who report relevant information confidential and take protective measures in line with relevant laws.
The MSS said on Tuesday that counter-espionage work requires the mobilization of all parts of society, which combines the “open work” and “secret work” as well as the specialized work with the mass public work, the authority said in its first article published on its official WeChat account.
In following posts on WeChat, the MSS detailed punishments for espionage activities including new types of espionage activities such as cyber espionage and third-party country espionage included in the new Counter-Espionage Law, listing other documents, data, materials, and items related to national security and interests as protected objects, enhancing the precision and comprehensiveness of counter-espionage work.
It also emphasized the respect for human rights during the counter-espionage work, for example, it clarifies a series of procedural requirements during law enforcement, such as performing approval procedures, showing documentary credentials, a two-person system for law enforcement, and full-process audio and video recording.
The MSS will fully safeguard individual rights including the right to request protection when facing danger due to supporting and assisting counter-espionage work and the right to report or accuse illegal law enforcement.
It stipulates that the legal responsibility shall be investigated in accordance with the law should officials working for national security agencies abuse their power, neglect their duties, engage in favoritism, illegally detain, torture for confessions, use violence to extract evidence, or violate regulations to disclose state secrets, work secrets, commercial secrets, and personal privacy.
The US on Wednesday raised concerns over Chinese call to encourage its citizens to join counter-espionage work and said it has been closely monitoring the implementation of Beijing’s expanded anti-spying laws, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Hu Xijin, a Chinese media professional, said in a latest article published on the Global Times that the purpose of involving the whole society in counter-espionage is not to become a “mass movement to catch spies.” Public participation in counterintelligence and espionage prevention should strictly follow legal channels. Any individuals or incidents suspected of espionage must be rigorously identified by the MSS and handled in accordance with the law.
Also on Thursday, the MSS released a 4-minute video on their official WeChat account titled “With Me” showing how the authority safeguards national security. The video includes reenacted scenes from the 2019 social turmoil in Hong Kong, featuring black-clad rioters wearing black masks swinging hammers, individuals holding Molotov cocktails, and fires from debris on the streets.
The subtitles reference, “When the storm suddenly hit the Pearl River, I rooted out the hidden hands behind the scenes, helping to restore peace and tranquility,” followed by a display of the physical text of the “National Security Law for Hong Kong.”
The video also reenacts a scene at the airport after Huawei senior executive, Meng Wanzhou, returned to China from Canada. The subtitle states, “No matter where you are trapped or what dangers you encounter, the motherland is your strongest backbone.”