From sending spies as students to US universities to appointing informants to monitor religious beliefs of local households, the Chinese Communist Party has left no stone unturned in its quest for total control over everything.
As per a media report, the Chinese government regularly sends over its spies disguised as students to universities abroad, particularly the United States. Christopher Wray, the current Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), revealed that China’s information gatherers have already penetrated American universities.
Speaking about the counter-intelligence risk posed by Chinese nationals to the US, he said, “I think in this setting I would just say that the use of nontraditional collectors, especially in the academic setting, whether it’s professors, scientists, students, we see in almost every field office that the FBI has around the country.”
But back in China, things are even more insidious. As per an internal document issued by Hinggan League, a prefecture-level subdivision of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the authorities have now started posting officials to serve as “religious information personnel.” Assigned by the United Front Work Department in local communities, they are responsible for reporting on residents’ beliefs and ideology on a daily basis to the local Religious Affairs Bureau.
To motivate them, the informants are given financial benefits ranging from 200 RMB (about 29 USD) to 600 RMB (about 86 USD) per year as well as fines up to 100 RMB (about 14 USD) per case, if they fail to report on an incident.
These benefits and punishments are measured by how well the officers meet their “quotas.” The officers are expected to carry out the government’s religious management work, familiarize themselves with the latest developments of religious believers within the jurisdiction, and promptly report all kinds of religious information, including communicating about visiting missionaries.
The new personnel to monitor the citizens’ religious beliefs have been introduced to reinforce the so-called “grid control system” that the authorities established earlier this year. Intended to increase social control, each neighborhood has been divided into grids with 15-20 households, and administrators have been assigned to each of them. Their main task is to report back on residents’ affairs and “hidden dangers,” including religious activities, to existing neighborhood committees that have long been tasked with monitoring the activities of ordinary people.
A grid administrator who wished to remain anonymous revealed that he and his colleagues are demanded to collect information on every person of faith who are then put on a blacklist, along with former prisoners and those who use drugs.
A Fujian resident who is a Christian by faith revealed that he once discovered two information officers taking photos around his home. Three months later, he was called in for questioning and has been summoned multiple times since then.
Student information officers or spies are widely used at Chinese schools and universities as well. Cultivated by the Party and government officials at these institutions, they are responsible for monitoring their instructors and classmates. They then send in regular reports about whether anyone exhibited “reactionary ideologies” or made “reactionary remarks.”
Reported by Gu Qi