Japan Scrambles Jets as China Warplanes Fly Through Okinawa Strait

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It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defense minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.

Jesse Johnson reports: The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled aircraft on Sunday as at least eight Chinese fighters and bombers — and possibly more than 40 — passed through a critical international entryway into the Western Pacific.

They used a legal but politically sensitive passage through Okinawa, apparently to send a message to Tokyo.

“This is a response to what Beijing will allege is a provocation by Japan in joining the U.S. in South China Sea drills despite Beijing warning Tokyo against participating.”

— University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer

It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defense minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.

The Chinese aircraft, which also included refueling tankers, flew over the Miyako Strait in Okinawa Prefecture but did not infringe Japanese airspace, the Defense Ministry said in Tokyo.

China said more than 40 aircraft were involved. They flew between Miyako Island near Taiwan and Okinawa’s main island on the way to “regular” patrols and drills in the Western Pacific, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement posted to its website.

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People’s Liberation Army Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke said the massive show of force, which included H-6K bombers, Su-30 fighters and tanker aircraft, conducted reconnaissance and early warning exercises, attacks on sea surface targets, and in-flight refueling “to test the air force’s fighting capacity on the high seas.”

Chinese bombers and fighters also conducted what Shen called a “regular patrol” in the East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that China unilaterally declared in 2013.

“The regular Western Pacific drills and ADIZ patrols are necessary to safeguard national sovereignty, the country’s security and maintain peaceful development,” Shen said.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan Times]

The air force will continue patrolling the East China Sea ADIZ and conduct training to improve its combat capacity in order to “uphold the legitimate rights and interests of China,” Shen added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, told a news conference Monday that although the aircraft never violated Japanese airspace, Tokyo “will continue to devote every effort to vigilance and surveillance and rigorously enforce steps against intrusions into our airspace based on international law and the Self-Defense Forces law.”

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

While it was apparently the first time for Beijing to send fighter jets on the route, its air force first flew other types of jets over the strait in May 2015, China’s Defense Ministry said.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada angered Beijing with a speech last week, in which she said Tokyo would “increase its engagement in the South China Sea through … Maritime Self-Defense Force joint training cruises with the U.S. Navy.”

There was a fiery reaction in Chinese state media, but experts said she had not broken new ground in Japan’s approach to the South China Sea.

Still, according to University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer, the Chinese flights were meant to send a message to Japan not to meddle in the South China Sea issue. Read the rest of this entry »


China Facing Full-Blown Banking Crisis, World’s Top Financial Watchdog Warns

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China has failed to curb excesses in its credit system and faces mounting risks of a full-blown banking crisis, according to early warning indicators released by the world’.

A key gauge of credit vulnerability is now three times over the danger threshold and has continued to deteriorate, despite pledges by Chinese premier Li Keqiang to wean the economy off debt-driven growth before it is too late.

The Bank for International Settlements warned in its quarterly report that China’s “credit to GDP gap” has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution. It is also significantly higher than the scores in East Asia’s speculative boom on 1997 or in the US subprime bubble before the Lehman crisis.

Studies of earlier banking crises around the world over the last sixty years suggest that any score above ten requires careful monitoring.  The credit to GDP gap measures deviations from normal patterns within any one country and therefore strips out cultural differences.

It is based on work the US economist Hyman Minsky and has proved to be the best single gauge of banking risk, although the final denouement can often take longer than assumed. Indicators for what would happen to debt service costs if interest rates rose 250 basis points are also well over the safety line.

China’s total credit reached 255pc of GDP at the end of last year, a jump of 107 percentage points over eight years. This is an extremely high level for a developing economy and is still rising fast.

Outstanding loans have reached $28 trillion, as much as the commercial banking systems of the US and Japan combined. The scale is enough to threaten a worldwide shock if China ever loses control. Corporate debt alone has reached 171pc of GDP, and it is this that is keeping global regulators awake at night. Read the rest of this entry »


Tesla’s Autopilot May Have Caused Fatal Crash in China

A Chinese man suing Tesla Motors tsla after his son was killed while driving one of the U.S. car makers’ vehicles argues that the responsiveness of the car’s “autopilot” function was responsible for the accident, his lawyer said. Tesla’s Autopilot, introduced in October, has been the focus of intense scrutiny. The company said earlier this…(read more)

Source: Fortune


Should the U.S. Keep Control of Group that Handles Internet Domain Names?

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‘Under the guardianship of the United States and the First Amendment the internet has become truly an oasis of freedom, but that could soon change.’

During an often-contentious hearing Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took on the Obama administration for what has become his latest signature issue: internet oversight.

“It is not a democratic body.”

— Senator Ted Cruz

The Obama administration is due to relinquish U.S. control Oct. 1 over a private-sector, nonprofit organization that administers internet domain names and designations. Cruz warned that the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers will not on its own honor U.S. protections of free speech, and he is leading an effort to delay or stop the transfer.

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“A number of significant questions related to the transition remain unanswered, including whether the transition will yield an unconstitutional transfer of United States government property, how the transfer will affect human rights and free speech issues, if U.S.-controlled top-level domains such as .gov and .mil could be compromised or if ICANN will be subject to increased antitrust scrutiny.”

“Under the guardianship of the United States and the First Amendment the internet has become truly an oasis of freedom, but that could soon change,” Cruz said at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, which he chairs.

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“It is not a democratic body,” Cruz said of the organization, which includes such internet stakeholders as Google and Facebook and is based in Los Angeles. And he warned that authoritarian countries such as China, Russia and Iran could exert control over the organization and censor internet use in their countries.

[Read the full story here, at McClatchy DC]

We are a nonpolitical technical entity. Göran Marby, CEO and president, Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers

The Obama administration maintains that the transfer involves technical matters that do not affect the substance of websites or the flow of information. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., the ranking member on the subcommittee, said the transition was really a “clerical process.” “The United States does not own the internet,” he said.

Internet addiction is worrying China. Boot camp-style correctional facilities hope to deprogram those who live in online worlds. Source: Supplied

Cruz is poised to add an amendment to a temporary government funding bill to block the transfer – the same tactic he used in 2013 to stop funding the federal health care law, which led to a partial federal government shutdown. However, this time, Cruz has mainstream support from powerful Republicans.

[Read the full text here, at McClatchy DC]

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, attended the subcommittee hearing and was supportive of putting off the transfer. Read the rest of this entry »


South China Morning Post Closes its Chinese-Language Websites Without Warning

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Things just keep getting worse and worse for Hong Kong’s paper of record.

Now, if you try to log onto South China Morning Post‘s Chinese-language news site or lifestyle site you are redirected to the paper’s English-language website and informed that SCMP’s Chinese-language services have been closed in order to better “integrate resources.” The message concludes, “We thank you for your past support.”

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And just like that years of Chinese-language reporting by the SCMP has been wiped out. Current and former employees told Quartz that they were not told in advance about the decision to close the site. This is backed up by the fact that SCMP’s Chinese-language news site, nanzao.com, was still posting stories on Facebook as late as this afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] What does China want in the South China Sea? In 60 Seconds

DigitalGlobe overview imagery from June 3rd, 2016 of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea. Fiery Cross is located in the western part of the Spratly Islands group.  Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images.

Unlike China’s neighbors, the South China Sea‘s islands are not within China’s exclusive economic zone. So what do they want there? AEI Research Fellow Michael Mazza describes China’s motivations for its claims in the waters near the Philippines and Vietnam.

 


HONG KONG WRONG: iPhone 7’s New Slogan Translates to ‘This is Penis’ in Cantonese

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The Cantonese language uses subtly different tones to differentiate between words. The Cantonese pronunciation of ‘seven’ (七) uses a ‘cat1’ tone, according to the Chinese Character Database of Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Apple launched its iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus at a live event in San Francisco this week. One of the technology firm’s biggest market is China, which includes the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Apple’s ‘This is 7’ slogan for its new iPhone 7 has a rather unfortunate translation in Hong Kong.

Smartphone users have been mocking the technology firm’s latest marketing line because it sounds just like ‘This is penis’ in Cantonese.

The iPhone 7 slogan as it appears on Apple's site  in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong (l-r)

China is one of Apple’s biggest markets, but the translations for its new slogan differ drastically across mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“A common example is the Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung who is nicknamed as ‘689’ after being elected to his post with just 689 votes from an election committee – regrettably missing a ‘seven’.”

Apple boss Tim Cook introduces the iPhone 7 during an Apple special event in San Francisco

While mainlanders and Taiwanese people predominantly speak Mandarin, Hong Kong dwellers typically converse in Cantonese, which is why the comical translation only affects them.

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“Earlier this year, Korean technoloy firm Samsung faced similar mockery in Hong Kong following the launch of its Galaxy Note 7.”

Many Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong took to social media to mock the x-rated gaffe, reports Quartz.

Tim Cook unveils newly-designed iPhone 7 at Apple Keynote

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“The number ‘seven’ is a common euphemism of a Cantonese profanity word referring to penis, which only differs slightly in the tone. Number ‘seven’ is widely deployed in local politics.”

‘The slogan “7, is here” in China is the best. They got so many “7”s,’ said one Facebook user.

‘Why didn’t people say anything during the launch of Windows 7?’ queried another. Read the rest of this entry »


The Economist Explains: How Hong Kong’s Version of Democracy Works

The deck may be stacked, but the results still matter.

HONG KONGERS head to the polls on September 4th to pick their representatives in what, by China’s standards, is a remarkably democratic institution: the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (Legco). When China took possession of Hong Kong from the British in 1997 it promised the territory a high degree of autonomy for 50 years. In the run-up to these elections, the first since the “umbrella revolution” protests of 2014, local newspapers have been filled with candidates who mistrust those guarantees, and by some who want to renegotiate Hong Kong’s relationship with the mainland. Yet it can be taken for granted that a clutch of parties supported by the government in Beijing will continue to dominate Hong Kong’s political system. How does the territory’s democratic process work?

[Read the full story here, at The Economist]

For more than 30 years Hong Kong’s political parties have been split roughly into two camps. On one side are the “pan-democrats”, who argue that only a democratic system can safeguard the civil liberties the territory enjoyed under the British (whom many of the pan-democrats opposed, before the handover). They stand against the “pro-government” or “pro-Beijing” politicians, who regard themselves as patriotic allies of their counterparts in the rest of China. They tend to say that fair elections are less important than smooth relations with the Communist Party in Beijing. The role of Legco is to debate the laws and budgets put forward by the territory’s executive branch. Read the rest of this entry »


Meet the Young Leaders Shaking up Hong Kong Politics

Pedestrians walk past a banner for new party Youngspiration showing disqualified candidate Edward Leung (L) and Baggio Leung (C) during the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong on September 4, 2016. Young Hong Kong independence activists calling for a complete break from China stood in major elections for the first time on September 4, the biggest vote since 2014 pro-democracy rallies. / AFP / Anthony WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Beijing wants pro-democracy activists to go away. Instead, they’re getting elected.

Suzanne Sataline writes: In late 2014, Hong Kong protestors used umbrellas to shield themselves as police soaked them with pepper spray. Student leaders demanded elections free of intrusion from the Chinese central government, capturing headlines around the world, but their efforts failed. On Sept. 4, city residents pushed back again. Voters elected several of those young activists to the city’s legislature, a sharp rebuke to Beijing’s increasing encroachment on political life in the city.

“By the terms of its constitution, called the Basic Law, Hong Kong has autonomy, but with an asterisk. Individual residents cannot elect the city’s leader, nor try to change policies through referenda; they pick just half of their lawmakers. “

A record 2.2 million people queued to cast ballots — hundreds reportedly waited at one polling station past two o’clock in the morning — in the financial capital’s first city-wide election since protests two years earlier. Voters tossed several veteran moderates from the Legislative Council (LegCo), and replaced them with six activists who want to wrest Hong Kong from mainland China’s control. While the chamber’s majority still tilts toward Beijing — thanks mostly to voting rules that grant greater power to trade and industry groups — the new term will seat 30 lawmakers who favor democracy in the 70-member chamber. They will collectively pose a greater obstacle to the city’s unpopular chief executive, C.Y. Leung, a man widely considered too deferential to Beijing.

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“This arrangement of 19 years — engineered by the British crown, enforced by mainland China after it took Hong Kong back — never sought, and was never given, resident approval. Hence the widespread, youth-driven protests two years ago, quickly dubbed the Umbrella Movement.”

By the terms of its constitution, called the Basic Law, Hong Kong has autonomy, but with an asterisk. Individual residents cannot elect the city’s leader, nor try to change policies through referenda; they pick just half of their lawmakers. This arrangement of 19 years — engineered by the British crown, enforced by mainland China after it took Hong Kong back — never sought, and was never given, resident approval. Hence the widespread, youth-driven protests two years ago, quickly dubbed the Umbrella Movement.

[Read the full story here, at Foreign Policy]

Since then, Beijing appears to be tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city. Many residents were unsettled when five members of a local book publisher disappeared last year, and yet Hong Kong’s government seemed to do little to help. (One man later resurfaced, sharing details of how he’d been kidnapped by state security and held for months in mainland China; a colleague is still missing.) A sudden demotion and resignations at the city’s independent graft commission signaled that the lauded agency might not be so independent anymore. The central government’s chief lawyer in Hong Kong said in April that the government could deploy British colonial laws still on the books, such as those for treason and sedition, to prosecute independence activists. This summer, the city government’s Electoral Affairs Commission barred six candidates from the LegCo race, five of whom demand either independence, or a vote on the issue among Hong Kong residents. (The commission’s chairman is appointed by the city’s chief executive.)

Cheng Chung-tai speaks to supporters in Hong Kong elections

“Since then, Beijing appears to be tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city. Many residents were unsettled when five members of a local book publisher disappeared last year, and yet Hong Kong’s government seemed to do little to help.”

But that didn’t stop the election of young upstarts who aim to amend the constitution, expand voting rights, and bolster civil liberties. Sixtus “Baggio” Leung of a new party called Youngspiration thinks Hong Kong should declare independence from China. (None of the Leungs mentioned in this article are related.) Nathan Law, at age 23 the youngest lawmaker in city history, believes residents deserve a vote for self-determination. Beijing officials “are scared of our influence because we are not controllable,” Law, a leader in the 2014 protests, said. “We can mobilize people and arouse people and create enough tension between Hong Kong and China.”

“A sudden demotion and resignations at the city’s independent graft commission signaled that the lauded agency might not be so independent anymore. The central government’s chief lawyer in Hong Kong said in April that the government could deploy British colonial laws still on the books, such as those for treason and sedition, to prosecute independence activists.”

Some of those activists have been preaching on radio and street corners that Hong Kong is historically and culturally separate from China. The city, they have said, cannot trust China, and city residents should decide their own fate. By July, according to one survey, more than 17 percent of residents, and nearly 40 percent of those aged 15 to 24, said the city should separate from China when the “one-country, two-systems” plan ends in 2047. In August, the banned candidates organized what they called the city’s first independence rally, drawing several thousand people. One of the organizers was Edward Tin-kei Leung, a 25-year-old philosophy student born on the mainland. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong’s Election is Proof that ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is Alive and Well

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Ilaria Maria Sala writes: The bizarre “One Country, Two Systems” formula under which Hong Kong has been ruled since its handover to Beijing in 1997 has been declared dead many times—but last Sunday’s elections may just have proven its remarkable resilience.

“In many ways, the combination of Hong Kong with China has been like a marriage between two near-strangers, one of whom was brought to the altar without being asked their opinion, and where the power balance is fatally skewed.”

Invented by China’s former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping for China to govern Hong Kong, it was a bold and imperial idea. By allowing Hong Kong to retain its partially democratic system and freedom of expression, it would let the far away “province” govern itself, as long it remained loyal to the center.

“Leaders in Beijing are obsessed with control, and national identity in China is increasingly defined as supporting the Communist Party.”

The current Chinese government has more desire to control and more technology to do so than Deng or the emperors used to, but Hong Kongers are nevertheless guaranteed the right to vote in partial elections, freedom of speech and press, and an independent judiciary, rights citizens on the mainland only wish for.

Exclusive: punditfromanotherplanet Hong Kong Bureau

Exclusive: punditfromanotherplanet Hong Kong Bureau

“The sudden, unlawful arrest of dissidents is no surprise in China, but nothing of the kind had ever happened in Hong Kong.”

In many ways, the combination of Hong Kong with China has been like a marriage between two near-strangers, one of whom was brought to the altar without being asked their opinion, and where the power balance is fatally skewed. Hong Kong, with its long-held democratic aspirations and millions of residents who had fled Communist rule on the mainland, was never going to be an easy addition to China. Leaders in Beijing are obsessed with control, and national identity in China is increasingly defined as supporting the Communist Party.

[Read the full story here, at Quartz]

Unsurprisingly, “One Country Two Systems” has been under severe stress in recent years. Read the rest of this entry »


No Respect for POTUS in Asia

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The president emerged from a smaller staircase in the belly of the aircraft, and many saw it as a deliberate sign of disrespect by the Chinese.

 reports: On President Obama’s final trip to Asia, his impending lame-duck status is showing.

Mr. Obama, who arrived in Laos late Monday night to become the first U.S. president ever to visit the Southeast Asian country, is encountering more than his usual share of friction and confrontation on his 10th trip to the region.

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It started with his arrival at the airport in China, where Chinese officials failed to provide a portable staircase for Mr. Obama to disembark from the upper door of Air Force One with the typical grandiose visibility befitting a visiting head of state. Instead, the president emerged from a smaller staircase in the belly of the aircraft, and many saw it as a deliberate sign of disrespect by the Chinese.

Republican nominee Donald Trump said he would have refused to meet with Chinese officials if they treated him like they treated Mr. Obama. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Krauthammer: China and Russia Think the U.S. under Obama ‘Does Not Earn Any of Their Respect’ 

Taking a question about the conspicuous absence of a mobile staircase for Air Force One when Obama landed in China, Charles Krauthammer said this indignity was more than merely a “microaggression” for the experienced Chinese.

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North Korea Fires Three Ballistic Missiles as G20 Leaders Meet in China 

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The missile launches were the latest in a series by the isolated North this year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported by China, that ban all ballistic missile-related activities by the North.

Ju-min Park reports: North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Monday, the South Korean and U.S. militaries said, as the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies held a summit in China, the North’s main diplomatic ally.

“We are still analyzing details but this is a grave threat to our nation’s security, and we express deep concern.”

— Japan Defence Ministry

The missiles were fired from a region south of the capital Pyongyang just after noon (10.00 p.m. ET) and flew about 1,000 km (600 miles), hitting Japan’s air defense identification zone, South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

“We are still analyzing details but this is a grave threat to our nation’s security, and we express deep concern,” the Japan Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The launches drew immediate condemnation from the United States, which described them as “reckless,” and diplomats said the U.N. Security Council will discuss them behind closed doors on Tuesday at Washington’s and Tokyo’s requests.

The missile launches were the latest in a series by the isolated North this year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported by China, that ban all ballistic missile-related activities by the North.

Pyongyang rejects the ban as infringing its sovereign right to pursue a space program and self defense.

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Shortly after the missile launches, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the sidelines of the G20 summit and agreed to cooperate on monitoring the situation, a Japanese statement said.

The South’s military said the missiles were medium-range Rodong-class, launched as a show of force timed to coincide with the G20 summit. The U.S. Strategic Command said in a statement that two of the three were presumed to be “intermediate range” ballistic missiles and that the third was still being assessed.

In 2014, the North fired two Rodong medium-range missiles just as Park and Abe were meeting U.S. President Barack Obama at the Hague to discuss responding to the North’s arms program. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Homer at Mao’s Tomb


Two Years After the Occupy Protests, Hong Kong’s Youth Made Big Gains in a Record-Breaking Election 

At least six seats have gone to new politicians allied with Occupy and other anti-Beijing protests. Some replaced established pro-democratic politicians, who have been fighting for democracy for three decades in Hong Kong. Of the 70 seats, 55 have been announced, with 22 going to pro-democracy candidates.

Isabella Steger reports: Voters in Hong Kong showed they’re willing to put their future in the hands of politicians as young as 23, casting aside some of the most well known faces in local politics in the process.

Hong Kongers turned up in record numbers for the polls on Sunday (Sept. 4) to vote for members of the new Legislative Council. The council has long been controlled by pro-Beijing politicians, but holding on to veto power with one third of the seats is necessary for the opposition to push back against proposed legislation that could tighten the Chinese Communist Party’s over Hong Kong.

As the final results continued to roll in on Monday afternoon—counting was delayed because long queues forced polling stations to close well after the cut-off time—the after-effects of 2014’s Occupy protests, or Umbrella Movement, could already be viscerally felt.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why Anti-China Sentiment is On The Rise in Hong Kong 

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Elections for the Hong Kong Legislative Council were held Sunday with near-record turnout in the city. Many are voting for younger, more democratic candidates who want to become more independent from increasingly authoritative mainland China.

Weston Williams reports: In 1997, when Hong Kong underwent its “handover” from the British government to China, the deal carried with it the promise that, for the next 50 years at least, the former British colony would be largely autonomous from the Chinese mainland. The historic agreement created an unusual bond between the largely democratic island and the authoritarian communist state of which it is now a part.

In recent years, however, the handover that created “one country, two systems” has been called into question, as mainland China has increasingly tried to impose its will on the city.

On Sunday, these questions were brought to the forefront as Hong Kong voters turned out in near-record numbers to decide this term’s members of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo). Pro-democracy candidates hope to win enough seats to resist the pro-Beijing establishment in the first election following the student-led “Umbrella Movement” protests in 2014.

[Read the full story here, at CSMonitor.com]

At least by Chinese standards, LegCo is a significantly democratic institution. The council consists of 70 seats that accept both pro-Beijing politicians as well as the “pan-democrats,” politicians who support the idea that the civil liberties enjoyed under the British can be preserved only through democratic action. But of those 70 seats, only 40 are directly elected by citizens of Hong Kong. According to the Economist, the remaining 30 seats belong to “functional constituencies,” which are chosen by groups representing business interests, professionals, and rural communities. The design of the constituencies has ensured that the majority of LegCo legislators have been pro-Beijing since the handover.

According to Reuters, Hong Kong’s pan-democratic opposition currently controls just 27 seats in LegCo, giving it the power to block policies and some laws, but little else. While Hong Kong enjoys a great deal more freedom and democratic leeway than mainland China, many citizens feel the Beijing holds too much sway in city elections. Read the rest of this entry »


G20 ‘Honey Trap’ Warning: Fears Prime Minister’s Officials will be Seduced by Chinese Spies and Have Hotel Rooms Bugged

British government aides have fallen victim to spying on previous official trips to China, with one Downing Street official reported to have had his mobile phone and secret documents stolen after he was seduced.

Government security chiefs are anxious to avoid a repeat of the incident, which took place during a visit by Gordon Brown in 2008, and have provided detailed guidance to Mrs May’s team.

The Prime Minister’s officials have been warned to take steps to protect themselves during the G20 summit, which begins on Sunday.

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Officials travelling with Mrs May have been issued with temporary mobile phones and email addresses in an attempt to evade Chinese state hackers.

Security advisers are also warning staff not to keep gifts they receive and to be particularly wary of electronic devices, such as free computer memory sticks, mobile phone SIM cards or chargers which they are offered by their Chinese hosts.

One Whitehall source said security chiefs had warned them that hotel rooms used during the summit were likely to be bugged. “We have been told that if you feel uncomfortable about people seeing you naked, you should get changed under your bedclothes,” the source said.

Damian McBride, left, was then prime minister Gordon Brown's special advisor CREDIT: BRUCE ADAMS/REX

Damian McBride, left, was then prime minister Gordon Brown’s special advisor CREDIT: BRUCE ADAMS/REX

British security agencies regard China as one of the most aggressive nations when it comes to launching cyber-attacks against western governments and businesses, as well as posing a major espionage threat to the UK.

Chinese technological expertise has prompted security concerns at the highest levels of government and British intelligence.

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There are fears that Chinese intelligence agents will use their capability to intercept emails and phone calls and to install spy software on computers during the summit.

However, one of the gravest threats posed by foreign spies is also one of the oldest: the honey trap.

During Mr Brown’s visit to China in 2008, one of the No 10 officials accompanying the then Prime Minister reportedly fell prey to a “beautiful” female Chinese spy. She went back to his hotel room, drugged him, stole his mobile phone and documents from his briefcase.

The incident was described by Mr Brown’s former spin doctor, Damien McBride, in his 2013 memoir, Power Trip.

The No 10 team was “accosted on one side by a beautiful posse of Chinese girls and on the other side by an equivalent group of Russian blondes”, Mr McBride said.

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He wrote:

Even before our resident security expert could warn us that their interest was not to be taken at face value, we looked up and saw one of our number disappearing up the stairs to the exit with one of the girls, beaming back at us.

He woke up the following morning “minus his Blackberry and half the contents of his briefcase”.

The official also had a “‘very bad headache, owning to the Mickey Finn nightcap his overnight companion had administered to him in his hotel room”.

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The G20 summit in Hangzhou comes at a time of heightened tension between Britain and China. Within weeks of entering Downing Street in July, Mrs May put on hold a final decision on whether to approve a Chinese-backed new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Hands On With Susan Rice and John Kerry at a Paris Agreement Climate Change Event Ahead of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou

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