CHINA: Spies among lecturers and students

University World News, April 18, 2010

China’s political police recruit and maintain a vast network of informants among the nation’s university students. A report in China Digital Times describes how the Domestic Security Department or DSD has recruited intelligence agents to spy on people across the country for many years.China’s political police recruit and maintain a vast network of informants among the nation’s university students. A report in China Digital Times describes how the Domestic Security Department or DSD has recruited intelligence agents to spy on people across the country for many years.

The Times says Chinese netizens have also located and distributed online documents from the DSD and university security departments. These reveal another component of the government’s informant system within Chinese universities.

“These documents are intended to be confidential and not readily available online but some universities apparently mistakenly left them in the public domain where clever netizens were able to search them out,” The Times reports.

According to disclosures in official documents from the security department of Shandong’s Dezhou University , the institution has been recruiting informants on behalf of the DSD since 2005 from among lecturers and students.

The Times says that in 2001, Dezhou had already posted a document that referred to “covertly controlling the thoughts and actions of university students”. But the systematic and open “hiring and developing of informants” did not start until four years later.

It says Dezhou “requires DSD informants to grasp developments [concerning those who] oppose the social situation, launch the fight at the invisible battle front, take strict precautions against the powers of opposition whether they be foreign or domestic, within the borders or without”.

The document also urges informants to take precautions against ethnic separatists, religious extremists and violent terrorists, “and ensure that these influences do not permeate, stir-up or destroy the college and university environment”.

It says informants should collect intelligence information “in a timely manner, especially information at deep levels, information that can provide an early warning, inside information and actionable information”.

“Information [relating to issues that may] influence security and stability should be reported in a timely manner, as provided by regulations, to the Security Department’s Residency and Political Security Section. In emergency situations [the intelligence] can also be directly reported to the appropriate leader.”

The Times reports that Dezhou adopted material incentives to attract more informants. Its “Work Rules Concerning Rewards and Punishments” states: “For those who provide valuable information, the university will give a certain material reward; for those who provide extremely valuable information, the relevant departments to which this intelligence is reported will give a great reward.”

“The systematic cultivation and use of student special agents is not unusual,” the Times says. “The university’s directive on recruiting and managing student informants states that the establishment of the student security informant system was modelled on the experience of ‘sister schools’.

“From this, it can be inferred that this type of situation is much more common than what has already been revealed.”

* The China Digital Times is produced by the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. It is edited by staff and students at the journalism school with contributions from volunteer bloggers. It is a bilingual news website covering China’s social and political transition and its emerging role in the world, the editors say.

“We aggregate the most up-to-the-minute news and analysis about China from around the web, while providing independent reporting, translations from Chinese cyberspace, perspectives from across the geographical, political and social spectrum, and daily recommendations of readings from the Chinese blogosphere”.

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