China warns women off foreign spies in Dangerous Love comic

A poster warning against foreign spies is displayed in Beijing on April 20, 2016. Photo: AP

China has released a comic titled Dangerous Love, warning women not to be fooled by the charms of handsome foreign men who may be spies.

The 16-panel comic was issued by the Beijing Xicheng district government on Friday to mark China's National Security Education Day. It is aimed at enlightening its employees on the importance of confidentiality and the laws relevant to it in order to fight espionage carried out by foreign nations.

The comic, which was posted to numerous public bulletin boards, tells the story of a young Chinese civil servant named Xiao Li, or Little Li, who falls for a "visiting scholar researching issues about China" named David after meeting him at "a gathering" organized by "a foreign friend".

Like any classic love story, Xiao Li and David "begin a romantic involvement", and it transpires that Xiao Li works for the "foreign publicity department".

Dapper David asks many questions about what Xiao Li does at work, but she's oblivious to his conniving ways, because "having a handsome, romantic and talented foreign boyfriend is pretty good".

David persuades his new girlfriend to hand over "internal references", which he says will help him "write academic articles".

This ultimately leads Xiao Li to end up in handcuffs while being told by police that her "very shallow understanding of secrecy" had allowed David to abscond with files, as he was, in truth, "an overseas spy".

The comic then warns against committing "crimes endangering national security", for which charges can be brought if a person "steals, secretly gathers, purchases, or illegally provides state secrets or intelligence for an organization, institution, or personnel outside the country".

Those convicted of such crimes can be jailed for up to ten years, or for up to life if the circumstances are found to be "particularly serious."

The Beijing Xicheng district government said in a statement that it would display the poster to educate its employees about keeping classified information confidential and reporting to state security agencies if they spot any spying activity. It said that it would familiarize employees with ways to counter espionage.

The central government's inaugural National Security Education Day was meant to make people aware about security problems in China, and was marked by speeches and the distribution of materials.

China has cracked down on domestic and foreign spies under President Xi Jinping, with the establishment of an anti-spying hotline, the inaugural National Security Education Day, and a sweeping national security law passed last year expanding the definition of what is regarded as a violation of national security.

China's state secrets law is notoriously broad, covering everything from industry data to the exact birth dates of state leaders.

Information can also be labelled a state secret retroactively.

According to Chinese state media reports, the Chinese government on Tuesday said that it had sentenced a former computer technician to death for selling 150,000 classified documents to foreign spies, the New York Times reported.

China is also currently trying to attract foreign talent by offering "green cards" to people who have skills in areas the country wants to develop.

This week former New York Knicks player Stephon Marbury became the first foreign basketball player to receive a residence permit.

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