A week after United States closed China's Houston Consulate over suspicions of spying, a former Intelligence officer has revealed that consulates in New York and San Francisco are primary hubs for Chinese espionage. The Trump administration had cited the protection of American intellectual property and Americans' private information as the reason behind ordering the closure of consulate.
In retaliation, Chinese authorities ordered the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu, one of the country's remote inland regions, which served primarily as visa-issuing office for Chinese nationals planning to visit the US.
Spying Through Diplomatic Hubs
It is not for the first time that China has been accused of spying through its diplomatic hubs. However, amid the souring relationship between the two nations, the closure of the Chinese consulate was a major move by the Trump administration.
Speaking to Axios, a former US Intelligence Officer said that the Chinese consulate in Houston wasn't the only spying hub of the Chinese. "San Francisco is the real gem but the U.S. won't close it," the unnamed official said. By closing the Houston consulate, it appears that the US is working towards reducing Chinese espionage activities without taking a strong measure including the closure of San Francisco or New York consulates, reported the outlet.
In its report, the Politico had stated that foreign intelligence operations in San Francisco work towards collecting trade secrets and technology from nearby Silicon Valley. "It's a very subtle form of intelligence collection that is more business connected and oriented. Spies are very much part of the everyday environment in the region," an intelligence official had told the outlet.
The outlet also reported the appointment of a staffer in Senator Dianne Feinstein's California office by the Chinese authorities. The spy, who worked as the Senator's chauffeur along with a gofer in her office and a liaison to the Asian American community, used to report about US politics to the Chinese government.
Information on Uighurs, Chinese Students in US
China has been using its spy hubs to gather information on Uighurs, Chinese dissident groups, and exerting control over its students. During an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, President of a Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSA), had told Politico: "I feel like the tendency is that the consulate tries to control CSSAs more and more."
Axios reported that the Chinese embassy and consulates also paid students to take part in demonstrations for visiting Chinese leaders, holding study sessions on party thoughts and send photos to the government to "ensure compliance."
The Chinese government had engaged its embassies and consulates in the cultural and demographic genocide against Uighurs, revealed the leaked classified Chinese government documents. The CCP has sought to track down the Uighurs who have left China and force them to return, with orders to place them in mass internment camps "the moment they cross the border,' reported the outlet.