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Chinese media cheers NYT report that US spies were killed

An influential state-run newspaper applauded China's anti-espionage efforts on Monday after the New York Times reported that Beijing had killed or imprisoned up to 20 CIA sources, hobbling US spying operations.

The Chinese killed at least a dozen people providing information to the Central Intelligence Agency between 2010 and 2012, dismantling a network that was years in the making, the New York Times reported, citing two senior former US officials. The report has not been verifed.

China's Global Times, which is published by the official People's Daily, said in an editorial in its Chinese and English-language editions that, if true, it was a triumph for China.

"If this article is telling the truth, we would like to applaud China's anti-espionage activities. Not only was the CIA's spy network dismantled, but Washington had no idea what happened and which part of the spy network had gone wrong," the Global Times said. "It can be taken as a sweeping victory. Perhaps it means even if the CIA makes efforts to rebuild its spy network in China, it could face the same result."

"When the US media is keen on hyping up 'catching Chinese spies', they should forego their moral narcissism when reporting CIA espionage in China. It's absurd that under their description, the US is always the noble side whether it is catching spies or sending spies," the paper said.

The Global Times report was critical of the timing of the story, which it said came at a time when relations between Beijing and Washington were relatively smooth but shortly before a round of China-US diplomatic and security talks were due to take place next month.

"Many American political elites are willing to see more friction between China and the US. Now with the latest report, they have found a new angle to stir up distrust between the US and China over espionage," the Global Times said.

The widely read paper, which is known for its strongly nationalist stance, said one part of the report was false.

"As for one source being shot in a government courtyard, that is a purely fabricated story, most likely a piece of American-style imagination based on ideology," it said.

Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's foreign affairs ministry, said she was "not aware of" the situation described in the New York Times' report.

She added, "I can tell you that the China national security authorities are following their legal mandate to carry out investigations into organizations' personnel and actions that harm China's national security and interests."

While the New York Times' website is blocked in China, like those of many mainstream Western news organizations, the story has been widely discussed and its contents picked up in other Chinese media, especially by online news portals.

The story has attracted thousands of comments on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, with many people expressing glee that the spy ring was allegedly broken.

"Strike hard against spy traitors, protect the country's security!" wrote one Weibo user.

"Well done! Good on you China," wrote another.

On Monday, Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Chinese authorities have put six Japanese men into detention since March, amid growing speculation they are being held for suspected espionage.

"We were notified by China that three Japanese men each, six in total, had been detained in March by the Chinese authorities in Shandong province and Hainan province," Suga told a regular press briefing in Tokyo, cited by the Japan Times.

Beijing's Public Security Bureau recently announced that it was offering rewards to the general public for information about foreign spies, and there was also a poster campaign with instructions for Chinese women about how to avoid the attentions of western spies using seduction as a way of gaining information.

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