When Chinese authorities announced that former Chinese minister of finance Jin Renqing (金人慶) was stepping down in August 2007, they claimed he was doing so for “personal reasons.” According to a series of classified US diplomatic cables recently released by Wiki-Leaks, the real reason behind Jin’s resignation was his romantic involvement with a woman who was linked to several other prominent Chinese officials. That woman, it is alleged, was a Taiwanese intelligence operative.
One of the cables, sent by the US consulate in Shanghai and dated Sept. 7, 2007, described how some members of the top echelons of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would pass mistresses around and how one woman — described by a US official as “a promiscuous socialite” — had been involved romantically with at least three of them.
Aside from Jin, former Sinopec Corp (中國石化) chairman Chen Tonghai (陳同海) and former Chinese minister of agriculture Du Qinglin (杜青林) were suspected of ties with the woman.
Du resigned abruptly in 2006, while Chen was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in July 2009 in a corruption case involving millions of US dollars. After his resignation, the Chinese State Council transferred Jin to a government think tank, where he was made deputy chief.
“The woman had been introduced to these men as ‘someone working with a Chinese military intelligence department,’” the cable said.
As it turns out, the woman, whose identity is not revealed in the cables, was believed to be more than a “social butterfly” and might in fact have been a Taiwanese intelligence operative. Her fate remains unknown.
Asked for comment about possible involvement by Taiwan in the case, Ministry of National Defense spokesperson David Lo (羅紹和) referred the Taipei Times to the National Security Bureau (NSB), saying it was in a better position to discuss such matters. Other defense officials said after looking at the report that it was policy not to comment on WikiLeaks cases.
Officials at the NSB, Taiwan’s main civilian spy agency, would not comment.
Known in intelligence lingo as a “honey trap,” the use of female operatives to extract information from, or compromise, targets on the opponent’s side is an age-old practice used time and again by various intelligence.
In one recent case, described as Taiwan’s worst espionage incident in the past half century, Major General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲) was alleged to have been recruited, while stationed in Thailand between 2002 and 2005, by a “tall, beautiful and chic” young Chinese agent in her early 30s.
Indicted last month for spying for China, Lo’s espionage might have included passing information on the Po Sheng (“Broad Victory”) program, an umbrella project to modernize Taiwan’s C4ISR capabilities, to his Chinese handlers.
In related developments, a British newspaper reported that China had opened a series of “spy schools” amid efforts to substantially increase the training and recruitment of agents.
The report, published on Friday in the Telegraph, said China’s program began in 2008 with the founding of the first Intelligence College at Nanjing University and a second in Guangdong Province at the end of last year.
These efforts have accelerated as China recently opened its eighth National Intelligence College at Hunan University in Changsha City, Hunan Province, with similar schools opening on university campuses in Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Qingdao and Harbin since January, the report said.
The new schools seek to transform and modernize the Chinese intelligence services and produce intelligence officers who are “trained in the latest methods of data collection and analysis,” the report said.
Each school recruits between 30 and 50 carefully screened undergraduates each year, it said.
Commenting on the establishment of one such intelligence college at Fudan University in Shanghai, a spokesman at the university told the Telegraph that the effort was “in response to the urgent need for special skills to conduct intelligence work in the modern era.”
Cao Shujin (曹樹金), deputy dean of the Zhongshan National Intelligence College, told the paper that after students spent a year studying information management, they could elect to switch to the Intelligence College.
The new colleges are “nothing for the West to worry about,” Cao said.
“We are just trying to provide the right sort of skills for our requirements,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VINCENT Y. CHAO
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