Spy who de­fected: Pri­or­ity of China in­tel is con­trol­ling po­lit­i­cal, re­li­gious ex­pres­sion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY BILL GERTZ

A vet­eran Chi­nese in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer who de­fected to the United States says that his coun­try’s civil­ian spy ser­vice spends most of its time try­ing to steal se­crets over­seas but also works to bol­ster Bei­jing’s Com­mu­nist Party rule by re­press­ing re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal dis­sent in­ter­nally.

“In some sense you can say that in­tel­li­gence work be­tween two coun­tries is just like war but without the fire,” Li Fengzhi told The Wash­ing­ton Times in an in­ter­view aided by an in­ter­preter.

Mr. Li worked for years as a Min­istry of State Se­cu­rity in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer in­side China be­fore de­fect­ing to the United States, where is he await­ing a re­sponse to his re­quest for po­lit­i­cal asy­lum. He gave a rare, detailed in­ter­view to The Times on Sun­day re­gard­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of the MSS, China’s Com­mu­nist­con­trolled civil­ian spy agency.

His prior work as a Chi­nese spy was con­firmed to The Times by a West­ern gov­ern­ment source fa­mil­iar with his de­fec­tion. The source spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of Mr. Li’s case.

Mr. Li told The Times that the MSS fo­cuses on both coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence — work­ing against for­eign in­tel­li­gence agen­cies — and the col­lec­tion of se­crets and tech­nol­ogy.

The MSS, how­ever, is unique from other na­tions’ in­tel­li­gence ser­vices in that it is pat­terned af­ter the for­mer Soviet Union’s KGB po­lit­i­cal po­lice. Its most im­por­tant mis­sion is “to con­trol the Chi­nese peo­ple to main­tain the rule of the Com­mu­nist Party,” he added.

Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chi­nese Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton, did not ad­dress Mr. Li’s com­ments di­rectly but re­peated past Chi­nese gov­ern­ment state­ments re­gard­ing its in­tel­li­gence ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Al­le­ga­tions of China con­duct­ing spy­ing ac­tiv­i­ties against the United States are ground­less and un­war­ranted,” he said March 18. “China never engages it­self in ac­tiv­i­ties that will harm other coun­tries’ na­tional in­ter­ests.”

Mr. Wang said com­mu­nist rule in China pro­duced his­toric eco­nomic and so­cial progress and that China has con­trib­uted to a more se­cure world. “This is a fact no one can deny,” Mr. Wang said.

On those who leave the party, Mr. Wang said “there are also a hand­ful of peo­ple who be­tray their faith and leave the party, whose acts as well as some peo­ple’s po­lit­i­cal lies will never shadow the great feats of the party.”

Mr. Li said he left China’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vices to protest the agency’s role in gov­ern­ment re­pres­sion of po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents and re­li­gious groups that are out­side of the rul­ing com­mu­nist sys­tem.

The MSS, mainly a for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vice, is “deeply” in­volved in do­mes­tic re­pres­sion of nonof­fi­cial Chris­tian churches and the out­lawed Falun Gong re­li­gious group, Mr. Li said.

“The Min­istry of State Se­cu­rity is ac­tu­ally not do­ing things for the se­cu­rity of the coun­try, but rather they spend a lot of ef­fort to con­trol the peo­ple, the dis­si­dents, the lower-class Chi­nese peo­ple, and make th­ese peo­ple suf­fer and also make their life mis­er­able,” he said. In the in­ter­view, he also said:

China’s spy agency is fo­cused on send­ing spies to in­fil­trate the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, and also on col­lect­ing se­crets and tech­nol­ogy from the United States. “China spends a tremendous ef­fort to send out spies to im­por­tant coun­tries like the U.S. to col­lect in­for­ma­tion,” Mr. Li said.

China is cen­sor­ing the In­ter­net to pre­vent the pop­u­la­tion from know­ing about what oc­curs out­side the coun­try.

An in­ter­nal MSS man­ual that is kept se­cret from most of­fi­cers out­lines the pri­mary role of the ser­vice as the pro­mo­tion of Com­mu­nist Party’s in­ter­ests.

On­go­ing co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the CIA and FBI and the MSS in coun­ter­ing in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism can be constructive, but U.S. agen­cies need to be cau­tious be­cause the MSS is mainly an or­gan of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party, and does not di­rectly serve the in­ter­ests of the Chi­nese na­tion or peo­ple, he said.

Mr. Li said he worked in the MSS depart­ment in charge of gath­er­ing eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion in East­ern Europe and Cen­tral Asia. Some of the work in­volved tar­get­ing and re­cruit­ing for­eign na­tion­als who visit China.

He was born in 1968 in north­ern China and was first re­cruited into a pro­vin­cial Chi­nese in­tel­li­gence ser­vice be­fore be­ing pro­moted to the MSS in Bei­jing af­ter sev­eral years.

Two groups in China that are a main fo­cus of the MSS are un­of­fi­cial Chris­tian churches and the out­lawed Falun Gong re­li­gious group, he said.

The MSS also has tar­geted prodemoc­racy ac­tivists, like those who were in­volved in the mass demon­stra­tions in Bei­jing’s Tianan­men Square in 1989, he said.

The MSS is China’s main civil­ian spy ser­vice that is viewed by U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials as one of the world’s most ac­tive in steal­ing se­crets and run­ning for­eign spies. The mil­i­tary coun­ter­part, the Sec­ond Depart­ment of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, or 2PLA, is fo­cused on steal­ing for­eign tech­nol­ogy, much of it for weapons and mil­i­tary sys­tems.

To­gether, the Chi­nese ser­vices are es­ti­mated to have sev­eral thou­sand trained op­er­a­tives work­ing around the world, most pos­ing as diplo­mats, jour­nal­ists, busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives and aca­demics. Thou­sands of other Chi­nese na­tion­als also func­tion as semipro­fes­sional in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ers.

For­mer FBI Spe­cial Agent I.C. Smith, a spe­cial­ist in Chi­nese coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence, con­firmed that the MSS fo­cuses its ac­tiv­i­ties on pen­e­trat­ing U.S. in­tel­li­gence and gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

“The goal of ev­ery in­tel­li­gence agency is to get some­one in­side, and in the case of Chi­nese, they use not just in­tel­li­gence peo­ple but aca­demics and ev­ery­body else,” Mr. Smith said in an in­ter­view.

Mr. Li said his ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion that was banned for the gen­eral pub­lic helped him to turn against the sys­tem, in­clud­ing in­ter­nal re­ports on party ide­ol­ogy and in­for­ma­tion on Amer­i­can val- ues of free­dom and democ­racy.

Mr. Li said that as a doc­toral can­di­date, the MSS sent him to study at an Amer­i­can uni­ver­sity, an ex­pe­ri­ence that in­flu­enced in his de­ci­sion to de­fect. In 2004, af­ter he de­fected, he was de­clared an en­emy of the state by the MSS in at least two no­tices sent to se­cu­rity offices in China.

Ac­cord­ing to U.S. coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, China, un­like the Soviet Union, has had only a small num­ber of de­fec­tions of in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers like Mr. Li over the past 30 years.

An­other spy who de­fected was a Chi­nese in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer known pub­licly by the code-name “Planes­man,” who gave the FBI data that led to 1985 ar­rest of CIA in­ter­preter Larry Wu-Tai Chin.

An­other in­tel­li­gence de­fec­tor was Se­nior Col. Yu Jung­ping, a mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer once posted to the Chi­nese Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton who came over in the 1990s.

Mr. Li was in Wash­ing­ton to par­tic­i­pate in a con­fer­ence spon­sored by the Falun Gong, a Bud­dhist-ori­ented group that ad­vo­cates the re­place­ment of the Chi­nese com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment. Mr. Li said he an­nounced his for­mal with­drawal from the Com­mu­nist Party at the con­fer­ence, along with that of his fa­ther, who is also in the United States.

Mr. Li said he is nei­ther a Chris­tian nor Falun Gong mem­ber, but that his in­ter­est in re­li­gion and fear of be­ing per­se­cuted by the MSS con­trib­uted to his de­ci­sion to de­fect.

Mr. Li said he thinks there are sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of prodemoc­racy MSS of­fi­cers in­side the ser­vice, in­clud­ing those at high lev­els, who do not sup­port the party and are “even an­ti­Com­mu­nist Party” but fear tak­ing any action.

“But I sin­cerely hope th­ese peo­ple can play a spe­cial role in get­ting rid of the Com­mu­nist Party,” Mr. Li said.

The for­mer in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, whose fam­ily left China with him, said it took him sev­eral years to change his views. “Af­ter a few years of my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence in­side the sys­tem, I re­ally knew that the Com­mu­nist Party is very bad,” he said.

“My true ideal, ac­tu­ally, in this Chi­nese se­cu­rity depart­ment is re­ally to do some­thing for the Chi­nese peo­ple and the na­tion. But I re­ally hated do­ing things just for the in­ter­est of the Com­mu­nist Party and a lot of times those things that are in the in­ter­est of the Com­mu­nist Party are do­ing harm to the Chi­nese peo­ple.”


De­fected: Li Fengzhi, a vet­eran Chi­nese in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, says the agency is pat­terned af­ter the Soviet KGB.

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