China warns citizens against ‘exotic beauty’ traps of foreign spies

China warns citizens against 'exotic beauty' traps of foreign spies
File photo of scene in a nightclubGetty Images

China has waned its citizens against “exotic beauties” seeking to lure them into the hands of foreign spy agencies.

The Ministry of State Security said a Chinese man, Li Si, went to a nightclub while on an overseas trip and was later blackmailed by foreign spies.

The ministry’s WeChat post’s title read, “Hunting for beauty? You may become the prey”.

Analysts say such warnings reflect a sense of insecurity among China’s leaders.

The Ministry of State Security, which functions as China’s intelligence and secret police agency, has increasingly been raising the alarm among citizens about the dangers of foreign spies.

The ministry has also been making public the cases of people being arrested for espionage in China. Earlier this month, the ministry said Beijing had detained an individual alleged to be spying for Britain’s foreign intelligence service, MI6.

“I do not think honey traps are any more prevalent now than at other points in time. Part of espionage work has always exploited human weaknesses, be it greed, lust, pride, vanity, anger, disappointment or such,” Ian Chong, a non-resident fellow with Carnegie China, told the BBC.

“To me, the Ministry of State Security’s media campaign and the recent highlighting of risks relating to honey traps are more reflective of a sense of insecurity and threat, particularly from the outside world, that the current Chinese leadership appears to perceive,” Mr Chong said.

The most recent warning, which went into graphic detail, said that a local tour guide invited Mr Li to an adult entertainment venue and invited him to “pick” several women for the night. It did not specify when and where the incident took place.

Mr Li, who supposedly works for a state-owned firm, did not know that his activities were being tracked until several “burly foreigners in uniform” barged into his room and photographed him naked, according to the post.

They then used those photographs to blackmail Mr Li and coerce him into joining their intelligence organisation. Mr Li handed over his work laptop out of fear, the ministry said.

“In this way, the computer which contained close to 10 years of classified information fell into the hands of the spy organisation,” the post added.

It added that Mr Li’s “nightmare was far from over” even after he returned to China, as he was continuously coerced into providing the organisation with classified information.

“In the end, Mr Li [was] completely reduced to a puppet at the mercy of the foreign intelligence group and has caused immeasurable harm to China’s national security.” the ministry said. It added that Mr Li had been arrested and will face a “rigorous trial”.

The ministry has been posting frequent updates on its official WeChat page since it was launched in August. In the past month, it has also cautioned citizens against photographing military equipment. It also warned against organisations “recruiting aviation enthusiasts as volunteers” to transmit China’s flight data to other countries.


By David Ryckman