Prime Time Crime 

Chinese defector warns Canadians of Beijing's spy operations

Jim Bronskill

Canadian Press

June 29, 2005

TORONTO  - The high-profile Team Canada business missions to China during the last decade were undoubtedly prime targets for Beijing's spies, says a Chinese security official who fled his job to begin a new life. Guangsheng Han says the luggage of important foreign visitors to China is routinely secretly searched, Chinese delegations that go abroad frequently include spies, and foreign embassies and consulates routinely engage in espionage.

"China places a lot of importance on the collection of intelligence," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Han spent 14 years with the Public Security Bureau office in Shenyang, a major centre in northeastern China, and another five with the city's Judicial Bureau.

He quietly defected to Canada in 2001 during a visit to Toronto, resigning from his job and claiming refugee status the next year.

The federal Immigration and Refugee Board has turned down Han's claim, saying he was complicit in crimes against humanity. Han is taking steps to appeal the decision in Federal Court.

He was not directly involved in activities related to foreign spying but amassed intimate knowledge of Chinese techniques during his career.

Han said Chinese hotels that are allowed to accept foreign guests must report visitors' names to the Chinese public security and national security directorates. Sometimes a security official will even be planted on the hotel staff.

Guests of interest, particularly diplomatic and government personnel, business people and scientists, frequently come under surveillance.

Han said listening devices are planted in rooms and bags are clandestinely searched by security officials.

"I wanted Canadian citizens . . . to be aware of this type of thing when they go to China."

The periodic Team Canada missions, Ottawa-sponsored initiatives that included dozens of businesses signing deals with Chinese companies, would have been a natural target, Han indicated.

"These delegations would be under surveillance."

Han, who now lives quietly in Toronto, recently approached the Epoch Times newspaper with his story. Given Han's desire to reach a wide audience, the Times referred him to The Canadian Press. He spoke through a translator to both news outlets.

Han said he was inspired to come forward by the stories of two Chinese defectors seeking asylum in Australia.

Hao Fengjun, also a former officer with the Public Security Bureau, claims Beijing maintains a vast network of more than 1,000 spies in Canada, with operatives in Toronto, Vancouver and several other major cities.

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa has flatly denied that Beijing spies overseas, noting such accusations have been made before.

"All previous accusations, however, have turned out to be untrue," the embassy said in a news release this month when the issue of spying arose in the Commons.

Han claims otherwise.

"Many staff members of embassies and consulates stationed abroad are spies. This is quite commonly understood," he said.

"In addition, a sizable number of reporters sent abroad have an espionage role to play."

Canadian Press 2005


 Nicholas Eftimiades in his book Chinese Intelligence Operations says:

Another aspect of the PRC’s internal collection network that adds to the perception of a benign security environment is the aggressive use of technical surveillance measures. Many of the prominent hotels that cater to foreigners are equipped for the technical surveillance of guests and visitors. In May 1989 Chinese student dissident Wuer Cacti was recorded on videotape as he ate lunch with foreign journalists in the Beijing Hotel. The tape was made by the hotel’s static surveillance cameras, located in the ceiling of the dining room.

 Other prominent Beijing hotels that are known to monitor the activities of their clientele are the Palace Hotel, the Great Wall Hotel, and the Xiang Shan Hotel. In addition, the MPS owns the Kunlun Hotel and probably monitors its guests. According to Chinese prostitutes who frequent the Jianguo Hotel, the guest rooms used by foreign businessmen there also contain microphones. The Palace Hotel is owned in part by the PLA’s general staff department. One of the American contractors for the Xiang Shan Hotel had a series of verbal battles with PRC officials as it was being built. The Chinese demanded that additional wires be installed in each room. The purpose of the wires was to tie in microphones.

It is logical to expect that the technical surveillance of foreigners in these and other Chinese hotels is carried out by the MSS’s technical operations department.1

Ethnic Chinese living in Asia bought fifteen Vancouver hotels between 1987-1989.2

In Sidewinder it is stated that "large hotel chains and almost all the prestige hotels in Canadian urban centres are now owned by Chinese private or state interests."

The Communist Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s conglomerate, CITIC owns two major hotels  in Toronto.

Russia’s KGB and the Stasi, the former East Germany's security service, also used special rooms in hotels for foreigners. This enabled them to photograph persons in compromising situations, learn about their peccadilloes, listen in on their conversations and enable staff to rifle through the unsuspecting guests papers, computer files and other items of possible intelligence value.3

To illustrate how profitable this can be, in 1993, visiting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mitchell Wallerstein left his briefcase filled with top secret reports unattended in his Beijing hotel room where it is believed they were copied.4

Notra Trulock, former director of intelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy nuclear facilities in Los Alamos describes in his book the methods used by Chinese intelligence to gather information from American scientists. He says: “lab scientists visiting China should expect to have their baggage, computers and briefcases searched in their hotel rooms…”5

"The Chinese have extensive resources at their disposal. They can and do place listening devices in hotels guest houses and restaurants. They can search luggage and hotel rooms, scrutinize mail, and mount surveillance operations against visitors."   "Visitors to China should be aware that all private and business papers are at risk if left in offices or hotel rooms (even if locked in a briefcase, and they should assume that most hotel, domestic, bar and restaurant staff are subject to the influence and control of the Chinese Intelligence Service."6

"Even today, in 30 years of being in business in the Far East, I can't tell you how many times I went into meetings representing or in association with Fortune 500 companies from the U.S. whose high ranking executive had flown out the day before, come in suffering from jet lag, didn't go to bed as we told him to, went downstairs in the hotel bar, picked up some attractive young woman or in the case of a woman, picked up some attractive young guy and spent the night with them and the next morning when we went to the meeting, every document they had in their briefcase was already photocopied or Xeroxed and in the hands of the adversary."7


1   Eftimiades, Nicholas (1994) Chinese Intelligence Operations

2   Gutstein, Donald (1990) The new landlords: Asian investment in Canadian real estate

3   Melton,  H. Keith  (1996) The Ultimate Spy

4   Gertz, Bill (10 December 1993) "Pentagon Fears China Stole Secrets from Official's Beijing hotel Room," Washington


5   Trulock, Notra (2003) Code Name Kindred Spirit: Inside the Chinese Nuclear Espionage Scandal

 Extracts from the four page Security Advice for Visitors to China, issued in 1990 are reproduced in the book:

     The New Spies , by James Adams

7   Ralph D. Sawyer The Tao Of Spycraft: Intelligence Theory And Practice In Traditional China  (2004)   

    The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China   Interview with Ralph D. Sawyer

Further reading

Faligot, Roger and Kauffer, Remi (1989) The Chinese Secret Service

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