Ma Ying-jeou meets Chen Yunlin, president of China's Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits, in November 2008. Photo credit: Xing Guangli, Xinhua
The cross-strait rapprochement that began when Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwanese president in 2008 marked a clear decline in the number of publicized Taiwanese espionage cases in mainland China. Based on open-source materials, Dui Hua’s Political Prisoner Database holds information on more than 90 Taiwanese “spies” detained or convicted between 2000 and 2008—during the presidency of Chen Shui-bian—compared with just five people convicted for espionage after Ma took office. Four of these convictions were for selling military secrets and led to sentences ranging from death with reprieve to 15 years' imprisonment.
Court records from Hunan describe the fifth case involving Long Jianbin, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. The official account charges Long with collecting information about leadership changes and political, military, and economic developments for someone he “should have known” was a Taiwanese agent.
Through an online job search, Long was hired to work part time for a man surnamed Lee, who called himself the assistant vice president of a media company. After taking on initial assignments, Long reported Lee to relevant government bodies, perhaps concerned that he had gotten involved in illegal matters. Receiving no response from the government, however, Long continued to collect materials, many of which appear to have been publically available.
One of the collected publications, Selected Internal Reference, is a limited distribution compendium of news and opinion pieces sold principally to government bodies and work units, but often made available to their employees. As social commentator Zhang Shihe (张世和) noted in 2007, cadres often sell the publication to scrap recyclers, while other internal publications were often made widely available by profit-driven publishers. Other so-called internal publications that Long collected, like Dispatches of from the General Office of the Communist Party of China, contain articles that can be freely viewed online. Perhaps acknowledging that the information Long supplied did little harm to state security, the court meted out a relatively short sentence.
(Article 110 of the Criminal Law prescribes 3-10 years’ imprisonment for acts of espionage with minor circumstances.)
Zhuzhou Court Records Verdict: click to expand
Long Jianbin Espionage Case
Prosecutor: Zhuzhou People’s Procuratorate of Hunan Province
Defendant: Long Jianbin.
As the result of an online posting in which he sought part-time work, in September 2008, defendant Long Jianbin received a recruitment email for an editorial post with a generous remuneration package from someone calling himself “Assistant Vice President Lee” of Huayu Media Information Center. Long provided samples of his writing and editing ability over the Internet and expressed his interest in the job. Assistant Vice President Lee instructed Long to collect information on position changes and transfers among high-ranking officials and on political, military, and economic conditions. Long collected materials using methods such as Internet downloads, purchasing books and newspapers from local stores, and scanning Selected Internal References at the Chalin County Party Committee Office. He then used foreign computer networks to compress and encrypt the collected materials and sent them to “Assistant Vice President Lee.” Long received from “Assistant Vice President Lee” three payment transfers totaling 14,000 yuan around January 7, 2009. At this time, Long started to have suspicions about the identity of Assistant Vice President Lee and filed an online report with relevant state bodies. After receiving no reply, Long continued cooperation with Lee. During the period of September 2008 to June 2009, under the instructions of “Assistant Vice President Lee,” an agent of a Taiwanese espionage organization, Long took from the Chalin County Confidential Affairs Bureau and borrowed from his own work unit classified materials and information from 27 issues of Selected Internal References and three issues of Dispatches from the General Office of the Communist Party of China and other works. Adhering to transmission methods imparted by the agent of the espionage organization, he sent the information to Taiwanese espionage organization agent “Assistant Vice President Lee” over the Internet and received from “Assistant Vice President Lee” five payment transfers totaling 10,000 yuan. Using aliases such as “Li Xiang,” “Da Hai,” and “Song Weiping,” Long Jianbin received espionage payments totaling RMB 24,000 yuan.
After conducting a trial, the intermediate court found that defendant Long Jianbin, under circumstances in which he should have known that “Assistant Vice President Lee” was an agent of a foreign espionage organization, accepted assignments and requests from “Assistant Vice President Lee” and used secretive online methods to provide [him] with several confidential national documents and information. His actions constitute the crime of espionage. In accordance with the law, his sentence is as follows: 1) For the crime of espionage, defendant Long Jianbin is sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of five years and deprivation of political rights for one year with confiscation of personal assets of 10,000 yuan; 2) recovery of the 24,000 yuan [Long Jianbin] illegally obtained, transferred to the state treasury; and 3) confiscation of the tools used in committing the crime—one notebook computer, three desktop computers, and a USB flash drive.
Zhouzhou Court Records, (2011), pp.115-116
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