U.S. raises concerns over China’s counter-espionage push

By Daphne Psaledakis and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Wednesday raised concerns over a Chinese call to encourage its citizens to join counter-espionage work and said it has been closely monitoring the implementation of Beijing’s expanded anti-spying law.

China’s Ministry of State Security on Tuesday said China should encourage its citizens to join counter-espionage work, including creating channels for individuals to report suspicious activity and rewarding them for doing do.

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.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Mark Porter and Rosalba O’Brien)