Beijing will give its citizens a $72,000 reward if they catch a foreign spy

“I got one.”
“I got one.”
Image: AP Photo/Vincent Yu
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

“Foreign forces” are worth a lot of money in China these days.

Starting today (April. 10), the Chinese capital city will handsomely reward citizens who turn in spies who are conducting activities to “infiltrate, subvert, steal state intelligence, and collude to instigate rebellions,” state news agency Xinhua reported (link in Chinese).

The announcement, made by the National Security Bureau in the Beijing Municipality, is one of the many fronts in Chinese president Xi Jinping’s ongoing war against “foreign forces,” whom Beijing claims are jeopardizing state security. As the capital of China, Beijing is a prime location for foreign spies, and the city is “in urgent need of creative ways to mobilize people to build an anti-spy, steel-like Great Wall,” says the notice.

According to the announcement, espionage varies from providing financial help to organizations to participating directly in activities that jeopardize national security, including provoking, tempting, and bribing officials. The announcement refers to Article 38 (link in Chinese) of China’s counter-espionage law, which went into effect in late 2014.

The notice also provides an example of what constitutes as espionage. In January, a fisherman from Jiangsu province found an unidentified device (link in Chinese) with foreign writing on it in the Yellow Sea. The fisherman’s friend reported it to the authorities. and it was later confirmed that the device was being used to collect data about China for foreigners. The men were rewarded.

The reward for citizens who report spies can be as high as 500,000 yuan ($72,000). People can either call a dedicated phone number, send mail, or report it in person to national security departments.

China’s paranoia over foreign forces has been on the rise since Xi came to power in 2012. China implemented a law in early January to tighten control over foreign non-profit organizations operating in the country, for example. It also routinely warns its citizens about the dangers of foreign spies. During China’s first-ever National Security Education Day last year, Beijing authorities put out posters with a comic featuring a cautionary tale of a government employee who falls for a red-haired foreign academic who turns out to be a spy. There was also a series of videos in which Western movie characters like Mr. Bean and Wonder Woman were depicted as spies.