According to U.S. counterintelligence officials, China, unlike the Soviet Union, has had only a small number of defections of intelligence officers like Mr. Li over the past 30 years.
Another spy who defected was a Chinese intelligence officer known publicly by the code-name “Planesman,” who gave the FBI data that led to 1985 arrest of CIA interpreter Larry Wu-Tai Chin.
Another intelligence defector was Sr. Col. Yu Jungping, a military intelligence officer once posted to the Chinese Embassy in Washington who came over in the 1990s.
Mr. Li was in Washington to participate in a conference sponsored by the Falun Gong, a Buddhist-oriented group that advocates the replacement of the Chinese communist government. Mr. Li said he announced his formal withdrawal from the Communist Party at the conference, along with that of his father, who is also in the United States.
Mr. Li said he is neither a Christian nor Falun Gong member, but that his interest in religion and fear of being persecuted by the MSS contributed to his decision to defect.
Mr. Li said he thinks there are significant numbers of pro-democracy MSS officers inside the service, including those at high levels, who do not support the party and are “even anti-Communsit Party” but fear taking any action.
“But I sincerely hope these people can play a special role in getting rid of the Communist Party,” Mr. Li said.
The former intelligence officer, whose family left China with him, said it took him several years to change his views. “After a few years of my personal experience inside the system, I really knew that the Communist Party is very bad,” he said.
“My true ideal, actually, in this Chinese security department is really to do something for the Chinese people and the nation. But I really hated doing things just for the interest of the Communist Party and a lot of times those things that are in the interest of the Communist Party are doing harm to the Chinese people.”
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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