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China pays citizens for reporting ‘national security’ threats

China is offering residents up to $15,000 in payment for reporting dangers to ‘national security’, according to official media, in the latest campaign by Beijing to stoke worries of external threats.

According to the instructions, citizens who provide information that leads to the discovery of acts harming national security could be paid up to 100,000 yuan, depending on their participation in preventing or solving a case. They may also be handed ‘rewards in spirit’ such as certificates.

The Chinese government has paid monetary rewards for information on security breaches for years, but according to the state-owned Legal Daily, a new regulation issued this week by the Ministry of State Security wants to standardise the practice.

The measure is ‘conducive to fully mobilising the enthusiasm of the general public to support and assist in national security work, widely rallying the hearts, morale, wisdom and strength of the people’, a ministry representative said.

Beijing has increased public awareness of alleged national security infractions, including instructing children to be on the alert for potential threats to the country. CCTV produced a series of infographics in April advising readers to be on the lookout for spies in their midst, detailing eight faces of spying such as persons posing as romantic partners and plant lovers.

During periods of diplomatic conflict with the prisoners’ home countries, China has also invoked national security as a justification for detaining foreign nationals.

Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist, was detained in 2020 on suspicion of breaching national security, and if found guilty, he may face life in prison. Australian authorities investigated the homes of Chinese state media journalists weeks before Cheng vanished as part of a foreign interference investigation.

The timing of her detention, as well as the lack of clarity about the charges against her, fueled conjecture that the prosecution was politically driven or retaliatory. Chinese authorities jailed Bloomberg News employee Haze Fan, a Chinese citizen, on suspicion of damaging national security months after Cheng vanished.

Another Chinese-born Australian, writer Yang Jun, has been charged with espionage by Beijing and is facing a closed-door trial that began last year.

After large and often deadly pro-democracy riots shook the city the year before, Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous government enacted a national security law in 2020 to quell dissent.


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