China has revealed that its authorities detained a foreigner near the North Korean border in late October on the suspicion of spying. The detained person was carrying a hand-drawn map in his underwear. According to China Defence News, a military-run news agency revealed on Thursday that the map showed China’s military positions. However, the details of what else the map was carrying have not been disclosed by the Chinese authorities.
Security agencies caught the suspected spy after getting a tip from a local farmer about the detained person’s suspicious activities. The foreigner was also carrying a high-powered telescope with him, which first caught the eye of the farmer, who then informed local authorities. Upon detaining the suspected spy, photos of military facilities were found in his procession, as reported by Reuters.
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However, there has been no news about the nationality of the person, and authorities have kept this information to themselves for several reasons.
Spy games that China denies
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei has claimed to know nothing about the case. During a press conference in Beijing, Hong stated that he is unaware of the reports of a suspected spy being caught at the border and said that he will comment on it after clarifying the situation. He further added that Chinese authorities have stepped up their efforts in the domain of intelligence gathering in recent years and those efforts have yielded positive results.
Tourism has risen significantly in recent years in the scenic, forested region in northeastern China. While that has been a good omen for country’s tourism industry, this has also allowed criminals and spies to take advantage of the situation.
A military official stated that an increase in tourism in northeastern China region has provided criminals with an opportunity to roam a lot more easily in recent times compared to in the past. He further added that that these criminal elements are entering the region as tourists or in the name of running businesses. However, they are actually gathering intelligence against China and are working hard to influence local people as well. This is a threat to China’s national security and these spies are hurting Beijing’s development interests and must be stopped.
Incumbent China’s President XI Jinping further tightened the country’s already-strict security laws and regulations after taking charge of the country. A new national security commission has been established under his direct orders, and the national security law, which took effect in 1993, has been renamed as well, along with many other steps to boost up China’s security in the contemporary era.
The arrest of a suspected spy near the North Korean border is not the first case of detaining foreigners. In the last couple of months, China reportedly detained two Japanese nationals for spying. While China claimed them to be spying for Japan, Tokyo strongly denied the claims of any such wrongdoing. As a result, such arrests by Chinese authorities have further added to the already escalated tensions between the two countries.
Tokyo said that the two people arrested by Chinese authorities were simple travelers belonging from the private sector. Japanese media reported that the duo was in custody for several months and that investigations are ongoing against them. One of the two suspected Japanese spies were detained from Liaoning, China’s northeastern province which borders North Korea, while the other was taken into custody from the eastern province of Zhejiang. There is a military facility in Zhejiang, and the arrested person was suspected of spying on it and gathering intelligence about the facility.
This is not the first time China has taken Japanese nationals into custody. Chinese authorities detained four Japanese nationals in 2010 who were working for Fujita, a private contractor. They were, however, taken into custody on a temporary basis on charges of entering a military zone and taking photographs without getting permission from authorities. In addition to that, China recently revealed that a U.S. citizen by the name of Sandy Phan-Gillis has been held in custody for six months. She was detained on suspicion of spying and stealing national secrets.
While China has revealed the nationality of previous foreigners it has held, the identity of the person detained recently after finding maps of military positions in his underwear, has not been disclosed for unknown reasons. The military has refused to let the media know about his identity, as he is still under initial investigation. His identity is expected to be revealed when the first phase of investigation is completed.