Workers at scandal-hit Chinese shipbuilder CSIC given lessons in keeping state secrets
- More than 200 employees lectured on need for confidentiality just days after former general manager is charged with taking bribes
- Despite its key role in development of naval vessels, China Shipbuilding Industry Corp has poor record on protecting classified information, source says
Scores of workers at China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC), whose former general manager has been accused of selling state secrets – a crime punishable by death – have been schooled in how to protect classified information.
According to a statement released on social media, the company said that more than 200 of its employees, including security directors and those “responsible for handling information”, had taken part in a training workshop organised by the National Secrecy Science and Technology Evaluation Centre.
The participants listened to lectures on how to identify and handle military secrets, and exchanged views on how to safeguard confidential material, the statement said.
The aim of the session was to improve people’s awareness and understanding of the need for secrecy, it said.
CSIC was responsible for creating China’s first aircraft carrier – the Liaoning – after refitting an unfinished vessel once intended for the Soviet navy that it bought from Ukraine in 1998.
It is currently working on the country’s first domestically developed aircraft carrier, the Type 001A – which is based on the Liaoning – at its shipyard in Dalian, Liaoning province.
On Monday, China’s top anti-corruption agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said that Sun Bo, the former general manager of CSIC, had been found guilty of taking bribes. Sources said he was also being investigated for allegedly passing secrets about the Liaoning to foreign intelligence agents.
While the shipbuilder has long played a leading role in the development of Chinese naval vessels, including nuclear and conventional submarines, its apparent mismanagement of classified information has been a cause for concern.
“CSIC is well known for its poor management of confidential information,” a source close to the PLA Navy said in an interview.
At a time of growing geopolitical tensions between China and the United States, Hong Kong-based military expert Song Zhongping said that Beijing was becoming increasingly aware of the need to keep its secrets under wraps.
“Protecting classified information about weapons technology has become a priority,” he said.
And for workers at companies like CSIC it was not only important but an “obligation” to safeguard secrets, and anyone found guilty of violating security protocols “would not get a second chance”, he said.
A worker at a state-owned company involved in China’s space programme, who asked not to be identified, said that employers and employees both could face serious consequences if they failed to respect confidentiality agreements.
“Keeping confidential information secure applies for their [workers’] entire lives,” the person said. “And the same principle applies to private companies that work with the People’s Liberation Army.”
In a sign of the US’ growing interest in China’s military capabilities, a replica of a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter was spotted earlier this month at a military facility in the southern US state of Georgia. The facility’s commander said it had been commissioned by the US Marine Corps and was being used as a training aid.
Military observers, however, said that building such a precise replica would have been impossible without a blueprint.
Additional reporting by Minnie Chan and Kristin Huang