The enemies within: tales of greed
The Communist Party, whose skilful use of espionage helped defeat the Kuomintang more than 60 years ago, is now facing an ironic challenge: many senior officials have become spies for Taiwan and even foreign countries, a People's Liberation Army general has warned.
In a recent speech to staff of state-owned China Life, the largest insurance firm on the mainland, Major General Jin Yinan revealed details of eight senior officials' involvement in spying for Taiwan and foreign countries and criticised many younger party officials for just coveting power and material comforts.
Jin, a director of the strategic teaching and research department at the National Defence University, said that during the anti-communist campaigns of the 1920s and 30s, the party was almost destroyed by internal division, with many senior underground members surrendering themselves or even betraying comrades to the KMT in exchange for safety and a stable life.
Jin cited the surrenders of Gong Chu (one of the three top Red Army commanders along with Zhu De and Mao Zedong ) and Zhang Guotao (chairman of the party's first congress), and the betrayal by Zhu's former wife He Zhihua of one of the party's founders, Luo Yinong , to the then ruling KMT.
'He [Zhihua] joined with her then husband He Jiaxing to betray Luo. They were all party members. Why? Just because of two passports that would help them migrate to Germany, and US$3,000 of rewards [offered by KMT],' Jin said.
The couple were believed to be executed at their home in 1928 by the party's traitor-elimination unit, which was led by former premier Zhou Enlai. However, the wife was later found to have been rescued by the KMT and had only been blinded in one eye, but her whereabouts remain a mystery today.
'In those days, people who joined the Communist Party would risk their life... today's Communist Party is a ruling party. Whoever joins enjoys a lot of benefits. However, at the turn of the new century, many party members have become traitors even though their lives are no longer at risk.'
He said Kang Rixin, general manager of China National Nuclear Corporation and a member of the party's elite Central Committee and its Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, was one of the most senior officials involved in espionage in the country's history.
Kang was reported to have been jailed for life late last year on bribe-taking and other unspecified corruption charges, but Jin said he was involved in selling critical national secrets about China's nuclear power industry to foreign countries.
'Rumours on the internet said Kang received up to 1 billion yuan (HK$1.2 billion)... I can tell you that all those are all nonsense,' Jin said, adding that Kang's case dropped a political bombshell within the party's innermost circle, and prompted President Hu Jintao to launch a sweeping investigation of top party and government officials with substantial connection networks.
'Such a senior official also betrayed our country! His case can't be made public because the damage he has done by selling intelligence was a lot more devastating than our economic losses,' Jin said.
The general also detailed the luxurious lifestyle of Lu Jianhua , a former researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who was sentenced to 20 years in jail on espionage charges. Jin said Lu had been working for four countries and Taiwan. 'Lu, who was one of the young talents of the CASS, a famous socialist and a talkative guest speaker on China Central Television, was working for the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan,' Jin said. 'He served whoever paid him. He even claimed that he never wore a shirt that cost less than 10,000 yuan.'
Jin said that even the PLA was not an airtight fighting force and listed three senior colonels who provided military and important state intelligence to foreign countries. The juicy details shocked the public.
Jin said PLA Air Force Senior Colonel Jia Shiqing had sold information to the US Central Intelligence Agency because he was unhappy at being appointed deputy director of an air force magazine when he had hoped to be promoted to deputy head of the air force's training department.
'He [Jia] downloaded all the intelligence onto a [USB] microchip, inserted it in his anus, then went through Hong Kong customs several times within a month in exchange for money [from the CIA],' Jin said. Jia was jailed, but details of his sentence have not been revealed.
Senior Colonel Wang Qingqian, serving with the army's General Political Department at China's embassy in Japan, opened windows of the embassy in Tokyo at regular times to let Japanese long-range surveillance equipment gain access, and also install bugs at the embassy and the military attaches' office in Tokyo, Jin said. Japanese media have reported that Wang received a suspended death sentence in 2006.
Jin said Xu Junping, who was known as 'Xiao Xu' by the top brass on the Central Military Commission because of his skills in entertaining leaders during official trips to the US, defected to America in 2000. 'Xu was believed to have been familiar with the personalities of our top leaders,' he said. 'What Xu sold to the US was nothing to do with the number of nuclear missiles we have, how far we can shoot and other technical information, but about the personalities of our top leaders and their habits in making decisions, and those are all our country's core intelligence.'
The hawkish general also detailed other espionage cases involving former ambassador to South Korea Li Bin , a former senior official with Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, Cai Xiaohong, and Tong Daning, a former director of a social insurance foundation at the National Development and Reform Commission.
The fact that in Li's case- a Chinese ambassador could be working for the South Koreans- had rocked the leadership and diplomatic circles, the general said.
Li was detained in 2007 for leaking state secrets to Seoul, according to South Korean press reports, but mainland media said he was charged with economic crimes. Jin said his seven-year sentence hid a lot of disreputable scenarios.
'We could only talk about his problems involving economic crimes and even his homosexual tendencies in public, but not anything relating to his betrayal of China because the case was too humiliating and damaging to make public,' Jin said. 'Have you ever heard of an ambassador spying for a foreign country? But we had one now!'
Most of the espionage cases detailed by Jin were deemed classified. However, a commentary by the Global Times, a newspaper under the People's Daily, on Thursday said the cases mentioned by Jin were no longer secrets because most of the details had been widely circulated on mainland internet chat rooms or other forums.
It is rare for a state newspaper to comment that rumours spread on online forums are true. Jin made the speech in March this year to promote his new book Miseries and Glories. It remains unclear how the video of the talk was posted on the internet.