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- China created a site for people to report issues of national security, in particular matters regarding foreign spies.
- The site, 12339.gov.cn, has been translated into English indicating Beijing’s desire to receive international tips.
- China’s Communist Party has tried to influence the Chinese diaspora in the past, to exert control both abroad and at home.
China’s Ministry of State Security recently launched a “whistleblowing” website to collect tips on foreign spies.
The site, 12339.gov.cn, launched on April 15 and allows users to report any incident which endangers national security, targeting espionage in particular.
The site contains an extensive list of targeted actions. These include attempting to “overthrow the socialist system” through rumor or libel, and organizing activities with foreign countries, institutions, organizations, or individuals “undermining national unity.”
“Any person outside the territory who, in violation of relevant regulations and without paying heed to dissuasion, willfully meets with any person within the territory who have conducted activities endangering state security or being strongly suspected of doing so,” can also be reported on the site.
In a country where the government considers ethnic minorities, online commenters, and even group-chat users a potential political threat, the list of reportable activities indicates human-rights workers, journalists, and well-meaning locals and foreigners could easily be spotlighted.
What has also gained attention is the site’s English version.
Last year, China launched a military website to report leaks and fake news but that site – like most of the country’s reporting sites – were only available in Chinese. Yet 12339.gov.cn is has two language options, indicating the country’s desire to target English speakers.
In particular, the Communist Party’s influence campaigns are increasingly targeting communities within the 60 million-strong Chinese diaspora, hoping to shore up international support, and in some cases, control. This site could be aimed at finding out information on local activities, but may also be targeting what China deems suspicious activity abroad.
Even on the English version of the site, the only laws that have been translated are those that relate to “anti-espionage” while those concerning state secrets, national intelligence and anti-terrorism hadn’t been translated on Tuesday morning.
“The Chinese Communist party is seeking to suppress dissent among its diaspora in countries around the world,” Rory Medcalf, head of the national security college at Australian National University, told Foreign Policy last year.
Most recently, Beijing tried to control Tibetan exiles in Sweden by hiring a spy in the local refugee community who reported on refugees’ addresses, family members, travels, and political meetings.
While the new reporting platform will reward tipsters for accurate information, the punishment for people whose tips aren’t proven may serve as a deterrent. Those who provide fake or misrepresented tips will be “held accountable for providing false information” and “be pursued in accordance with the law.”