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Asia Minute: Love and Spies in China

It’s been nearly three years since Edward Snowden revealed the extent of certain U.S. intelligence gathering efforts around the world. Since that time, one focus of espionage has been on telephone and computer surveillance. But this month in China, there’s a different focus. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.

China’s worried about spies…and the government is alerting potential targets.  The concern is not about computer security…no inventive methods of technical surveillance.  It’s decidedly low-tech—taking the form of what the government calls “handsome foreigners.”

Last Friday, China kicked off its very first “National Security Education Day” with a bit of a morality tale.  It’s all captured in a 16-panel color comic book-style poster titled “Dangerous Love”…which sets out the cautionary story of Xiao Li…or “Little Li.”

She’s a young civil servant who meets a handsome red-headed foreigner at a party.  He says he’s a scholar—and they start a relationship that involves compliments and flowers…romantic dinners and walks in the park.  Then he asks her for some documents from her job at a government propaganda office—just to take a look to use them “in academic articles.”  Alas—he turns out to be a foreign spy—and she winds up in handcuffs—as police tell her she has a “shallow understanding of secrecy for a state employee”….so let that be a lesson.  It’s a lesson—and a poster—now hanging on bulletin boards of local government offices around the country.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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