Remember a few months ago when a Chinese woman was found at Mar-A-Lago with spying equipment? Apparently, the Chinese government really hates the new administration because it appears that spying operations have been kicked into high gear. Either that, or some argue, it’s just that under this administration the Chinese actually HAVE TO spy, not get the information handed over to them through illegal servers, etc.
The Chinese officials were with their wives when they drove onto the base near Norfolk in September. The group fled military personnel pursuing them and were only stopped when fire trucks blocked their path, according to The New York Times.
American officials suspect at least one of the Chinese officials was an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover.
The expulsions appear to be the first of Chinese diplomats suspected of spying in more than three decades. In 1987, the United States apprehended two Chinese diplomat who had tried to obtain classified National Security Agency documents. [Except, of course, the Mar-a-lago lady who was found with all those ‘devices.]
Neither the U.S. nor China announced the incident. It has fueled concerns about Chinese espionage in the U.S. as American officials increasingly warn about China’s threat to national security. American officials said Chinese officials with diplomatic passports have become more daring about showing up unannounced at research or government facilities.
Weeks after the intrusions, the State Department announced restrictions on Chinese diplomats, requiring them to give notice about their meetings with local or state officials and with educational and research institutions. The State Department said at the time that the restrictions were in response to Chinese regulations on the travel of U.S. diplomats.
The Chinese officials and their wives drove up to a checkpoint at the base, where Special Operations forces are stationed. A guard told the group they did not have permission to enter and asked them to go through the gate so that they could turn around and exit the base.
Instead, they continued on to the base and were eventually blocked by fire trucks. The officials claimed they did not understand the guard’s instructions and had gotten lost.
It is unclear what the Chinese were trying to accomplish at the base, but some U.S. officials said they could have been testing security measures.
In September 2018, Chinese student Zhao Qianli was arrested when he was found photographing an American defense intelligence installation near Key West, Florida. The student had gone around a fence that stopped at the ocean and walked onto the base to take photos, including an area with satellite dishes and antennae.
Zhao said he had gotten lost at the time of his arrest. He was sentenced to one year in prison.
A crackdown on Chinese espionage in the U.S. has picked up in recent years. Three former U.S. intelligence officers have been convicted in the last year of conspiring with the Chinese.
Most recently, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a longtime CIA officer, was sentenced to 19 years in prison. He was suspected of being a mole for the Chinese government who compromised CIA sources, some of whom were killed. Prosecutors were unable to prove that Lee gave classified information to the Chinese, but they argued it explained why he received more than $840,000 while he was being asked for information on the CIA.