BEIJING — Footage of a Chinese general discussing sensitive spying cases has been leaked onto Google Inc.’s video sharing site YouTube, in what appears to be an embarrassing failure of secrecy for the usually tightlipped military.
It wasn’t clear when or where Maj. Gen. Jin Yinan made the comments and China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond Monday to faxed questions about the video. Calls to the National Defense University where Jin is a lecturer rang unanswered.
While some of the cases had been announced before, few details had been released, while others involving the military had been entirely secret.
Among those Jin discussed was that of former Ambassador to South Korea Li Bin, who was sentenced to seven years for corruption. Jin said Li had actually been discovered passing secrets to South Korea that compromised China’s position in North Korean nuclear disarmament talks, but the allegations were too embarrassing to make public and graft charges were brought instead.
“In all the world, what nation’s ambassador serves as another country’s spy?” Jin said.
Similar treatment was handed out to the former head of China’s nuclear power program, Kang Rixin, who was sentenced to life in prison last November on charges of corruption. Jin said Kang had in fact peddled secrets about China’s civilian nuclear program to a foreign nation that he did not identify, but that was considered too sensitive to bring up in court.
Kang, a member of the ruling Communist Party’s powerful Central Committee as well as its disciplinary arm, was one of the highest-ranking officials ever to be involved in spying, Jin said. His arrest dealt a major shock to the party leadership, Jin said.
“The party center was extremely nervous. They ordered top-to-bottom inspections and spared no individual,” he said.
Jin also talked about Tong Daning, an official from China’s social security fund, who was executed in 2006 after being convicted on charges of spying for rival Taiwan. Jin said Tong had passed information to the island’s leaders about China’s currency regime, allowing them to avoid massive losses due to exchange rate changes.
Among the cases involving military personnel, Jin said that of Col. Xu Junping, who defected to the United States in 2000, did not involve the loss of any technical secrets.
Instead, Xu relayed to the Americans his knowledge of the military leaderships’ personalities, attitudes and habits gleaned from many years accompanying the top brass on trips abroad, Jin said.
The video was also posted on Chinese websites, and while it was removed from most locations, screen shots, audio files and transcripts of Jin’s comments could still be found on sites such as Sina Weibo’s popular microblogging service.
Jin’s presentation, complete with explanatory slides, was typical of how such cases are discussed at private sessions as a warning to Communist Party cadres not to be lured into espionage or corruption. The leaked video appeared to have been from an official recording rather than filmed by a member of the audience.
Authorities heavily police the Chinese Internet but can only remove objectionable content after it is posted and have no control over what appears elsewhere.
While Chinese are enthusiastic users of social media, YouTube and Facebook are blocked inside China and their Chinese equivalents are required to inspect all content and remove politically sensitive material before being ordered to do so.