The United States said on Wednesday that it has been closely observing the execution of Beijing’s enlarged anti-spying law and expressed worry over a request made by the Chinese government to encourage its citizens to participate in counter-espionage activities.
According to China’s Ministry of State Security, the country should encourage its people to participate in counterespionage efforts by providing avenues for people to report suspicious activities and paying them for doing so. This was said on Tuesday.
A system that makes it “normal” for regular people to participate in counter-espionage should be established, the ministry said.
That followed an expansion of China’s counter-espionage law that took effect in July and bans the transfer of information it sees as related to national security. It has alarmed the United States, which has warned that foreign companies in China could be punished for regular business activities.
“We do have concerns over it, certainly encouraging citizens to spy on each other is something that’s of great concern,” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller told a daily news briefing.
“We are closely monitoring the implementation of China’s new counter-espionage law as we have been, which as written greatly expands the scope of what activities are considered espionage,” he said.
In recent years, China has arrested and detained dozens of Chinese and foreign nationals on suspicion of espionage, including an executive at Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma in March. Australian journalist Cheng Lei, accused by China of providing state secrets to another country, has been detained since September 2020.
China’s declaration that it is under threat from spies comes as Western nations, most prominently the United States, accuse China of espionage and cyberattacks, a charge that Beijing has rejected.