Beijing revealed on Monday that the American, who was sentenced this year to life imprisonment on conviction of espionage, lured Chinese officials through sexual blackmail and eavesdropping on them with the aim of getting them to provide information for the benefit of Washington.
The judiciary sentenced Jun Shing-Wan Leung (78 years old), who was born in Hong Kong and holds an US passport, to life imprisonment in a severe sentence that is considered rare for foreign citizens in China.
Leung, a permanent resident of Hong Kong, was sentenced to life imprisonment and deprivation of political rights for life by a court in Suzhou, eastern China, in May.
It wasn’t clear where he lived when he was arrested.
The Ministry of State Security, one of the most prominent Chinese intelligence bodies, said in a post on social media platforms on Monday that the United States recruited Jun Sheng-wan Leung in the 1980s, beginning a career in espionage that spanned thirty years.
The Ministry of State Security indicated that his employers pushed him to spy on the Chinese community and set traps for officials visiting the United States.
Leung carried out espionage operations against China on a large scale… If he knew that Chinese employees intended to go to the United States for official activity, he would inform American intelligence about them.
He was based on an order from the US side, taking them to restaurants or hotels where US intelligence agencies had installed surveillance devices, to work to extract information or even resort to sexual blackmail in an attempt to coerce our employees or recruit them.
Chinese laws impose strict penalties on those convicted of espionage, up to and including death.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has intensified the campaign against covert activities in recent months, with the passage of a new law in July that expands the definition of espionage.
Beijing has always denied accusations against it from Western countries of espionage.
The directors of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the British Internal Intelligence Service (MI5) warned in July 2022 of the increase in Chinese commercial espionage activities in the West.
At the time, Beijing rejected these accusations, considering them baseless.
On Sunday, China strongly denounced reports of the arrest of two people in Britain on charges of spying for it, considering it a pure malicious slander and a political farce.
Last weekend, police in the United Kingdom confirmed the arrest of two people last March on suspicion of espionage.
The first was arrested in the Oxford area, and the other in Edinburgh.
British press reports indicated that suspicions revolve around spying on behalf of Beijing.
The man suspected of spying for China pleaded not guilty in the British Parliament on Monday, in a case that once again raises tension between London and Beijing, which rejected the accusations, considering them baseless.
The revelation of this issue comes as London recently expressed a desire for dialogue with Beijing after years of difficult relations, but Rishi Sunak’s conservative government was called on Monday to take a tougher stance towards China.
The Speaker of the British House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, announced that he would speak about this issue around 13:30 GMT, while the media suspected that espionage targeted Westminster.
British police announced on Saturday the arrest of a person in his twenties at his home in Edinburgh in March on charges of espionage, without revealing his identity and without providing details about his activities.
The Times newspaper reported that the man was active within Parliament, alongside the conservatives in power.
The Times said on Monday that he was the director of a political group that influences Beijing and was co-founded by the Minister of State for Security Affairs.
He was also appointed by Alicia Cairns, chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, as a researcher.
The man announced on Monday in a statement published by his lawyers that he was completely innocent.
He explained without revealing his identity that he feels obligated to respond to media accusations that he is a Chinese spy.
“I’ve spent my professional life trying to educate others about the challenge and threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
He added that the accusations “against me contrary to everything I stand for”.
For its part, the Chinese government announced on Monday that it strongly rejects the accusations of espionage.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said, “The allegation that China is spying on the United Kingdom is baseless and is firmly rejected by China”.
She added, “We call on the British side to stop spreading false information and stop its anti-China political maneuvers and malicious smear”.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed on Sunday to his Chinese counterpart Li Qiang, during a meeting between them on the sidelines of the G20 summit hosted by New Delhi, his “deep concern about the issue of Beijing’s interferences in British parliamentary democracy”.
In addition to this researcher, the British police arrested another man in his thirties in March on suspicion of violating the law relating to official secrets.
London Police explained that the two individuals were released pending a new phase of procedures in early October.
In the UK, the issue is putting pressure on Sunak to take a tougher stance on China, viewing the country as a threat.
After the “Golden Age” initiated by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015, relations between London and Beijing have deteriorated significantly in recent years.
The positions of the two countries differ, especially regarding the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, the former British colony, as well as regarding the fate of the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region or accusations of human rights violations in Tibet.
But Downing Street considered that reducing the United Kingdom’s communication with China would be a mistake.
The British prime minister’s spokesman said the government “will vigorously defend our democracy, but we must seize the opportunity to communicate with China, and not just shout from the contact line”.
London recently expressed a desire for dialogue with Beijing.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly made an official visit to China in late August, the first by a British foreign minister since 2018.
A few weeks ago, in July, the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee confirmed that China was targeting the UK, and that was unable to deal with it.