By Gisela Sommer
An espionage incident only weeks prior to chancellor Angela Merkel’s planned China visit may be threatening the bilateral relations between Berlin and Beijing said German news magazine Spiegel Online
in a June 26 article. Just days earlier, China’s intelligence gathering activities were prominently highlighted in a report issued by Germany’s Ministry of the Interior.
An employee of China's consulate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, records from a window a protest in front of the consulate on March 26, 2008. An espionage incident only weeks prior to chancellor Angela Merkel's planned China visit may be threatening the bilateral relations between Berlin and Beijing said German news magazine Spiegel Online in a June 26 article. (Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images)
Germany’s Federal Prosecutor’s office is investigating two high-ranking Chinese officials on allegations of espionage, and the matter could make Angela Merkel’s upcoming China visit more difficult.
According to information obtained by the ,i>Spiegel, Federal Prosecutors are investigating two Chinese individuals on accusations of spying against practitioners of Falun Gong in Germany. One of the accused is said to hold the position of a Chinese vice-minister and serves as head of the “610 Office,” an extra-judicial arm of the Chinese Communist Party, which executes the Communist Party’s directive to fight the Falun Gong meditation movement worldwide.
The Spiegel report also mentioned that at the end of last year
, in another case, a diplomat of the Chinese Consulate in Munich was ordered to leave Germany in December 2009 after he was found to have spied on the German Uighur community. (Also read: Merkel's China Visit Marred by Hacking Allegations
)Fighting the 'Five Poisons'
Just days before the Spiegel
article, on June 21, Germany’s Ministry of the Interior issued its 2009 Constitutional Protection Report
that addresses terrorism and espionage threats to the country.
The report devotes several pages to spying activities by the Chinese intelligence service, describing methodical information-gathering methods pertaining not only to political, industrial, and military applications, but also to groups of people the Chinese regime considers a threat to its rule.
One section in the report is called “Fighting the Five Poisons.” The report describes how the Chinese regime defames groups of people it considers the greatest danger to its own rule, calling these the “five poisons.”:
“Affected are most of all those whom China suspects of separatism: Uighurs and Tibetans, as well as adherents of the meditation movement Falun Gong. Beyond these, China’s communist party also considers members of the democracy movement and advocates for an independent Taiwan as state enemies,” the report says.610 Office
According to Falun Gong sources, the 610 Office is an extralegal, Gestapo-like agency that was formed on 6/10/1999 at the direction of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, specifically to persecute practitioners of Falun Gong.
A recent Clearwisdom (a Web site run by Falun Gong practitioners that reports cases of persecution) report tells about the agency’s use of extreme torture. Along with beatings to the face and body with heavy objects, some of the most common torture techniques that 610 personnel administer or supervise include sleep deprivation for days and weeks, shocks to sensitive body parts with up to six high voltage batons simultaneously, the prying out of fingernails, etc.
In addition to torture, 610 agents administratively send Falun Gong practitioners directly to labor camps, detention centers, and brainwashing classes —where they can be locked away for three years without a court hearing or other due process rights guaranteed to the Chinese people under Chinese law.
Hao Fengjun, a former Tianjin City 610 officer fled to Australia in 2005 because he no longer wanted to participate in the mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners. In February 2004 Hao was placed in 30 days solitary confinement after calling the party’s anti-Falun Gong propaganda "lies."
The former 610 officer said that though many of his colleagues disapprove of the 610 Office’s work, plenty others were quick to tap into the 610 Office's system of rewards.
"There were people who worked very hard because the more Falun Gong practitioners they arrested, the more bonuses they would get," Hao said.
Even more lucrative than arresting practitioners in China is collecting intelligence on overseas adherents; basic information about practitioners' personal lives, if deemed valuable, typically fetches as much as 50,000 yuan (over US$7,300).
Through a system of informants otherwise leading ordinary lives overseas, the 610 Office builds entire profiles of overseas communities.
Hao says he "personally received intelligence information about Falun Gong practitioners in Australia, the United States, and Canada" so detailed as to reveal where people worked and which activities they joined.