Reward: China offers cash for civilians spotting foreign spy drones lurking in local waters

  • Authorities award prize money to a Chinese farmer who found an underwater drone on a village beach
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 12:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 11:07pm

China is using incentives to encourage civilians to look for and report spy drones in local waters, citing “increasingly rampant espionage”.

As part of that push, national security authorities have honoured and awarded prize money to a farmer from Wenzhou, in the southeastern coastal province of Zhejiang, who discovered a foreign underwater drone on a beach near his village, Chinese media reported.

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The “suspicious device” found by a farmer surnamed Yang in September, was later identified as an underwater unstaffed vehicle made by a Canadian developer, Wenzhou Daily reported on Tuesday.

The drone’s actual type and the name of its country of origin were not disclosed. But the report said the drone was loaded with high-definition camera equipment and was capable of searching for and identifying targets at a depth of up to 600 metres (1,968ft).

“This kind of device can collect important environment data [around] our waters, as well as detect the activities of our navy and acquire information from a near distance,” the report said.

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“The situation of counter espionage is grim. The spy devices in our maritime environment are evolving every day.”

In 2016, the Chinese navy captured a UUV deployed in the South China Sea by the USNS Bowditch, a US Navy oceanographic and surveillance ship. The action caused a diplomatic incident before the Chinese returned the ship a few days later.

China has been known to mobilise its civilians, fishermen or maritime militia to counter foreign spying observed in its waters that is seen as a threat to national security.

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In a high-profile case in 2009, two Chinese fishing trawlers harassed the USNS Impeccable, a US naval surveillance ship, and almost collided with it in the South China Sea south of Hainan.

A crewman used a hook to try to snag the Impeccable’s towed sonar array.