Amidst the rising tensions between United States of America (USA) and the People's Republic of China (PRC) on the diplomatic front, a Singaporean man has plead guilty to charges of spying for China in the USA.
This man, Yeo Jun Wei, who also goes by the name Dickson Yeo, had operated a political consulting firm in the US as a front for his operations since 2018. It was in November last year that the American government arrested Yeo when he returned to that country to try and get confidential information from an army official working at Pentagon.
Through this consultancy firm, Wei was inviting people who had been involved with the US Government, especially on matters of security, to work for him. He received 400 resumes out of which around 90 percent fit this description. He forwarded them to his handlers.
The goal of his intelligence work was, in his own words, "to spot and assess Americans with access to valuable non-public information, including US military and government employees with high-level security clearances."
By identifying those who were financially vulnerable, he recruited them and asked them to write reports on matters of their expertise. He told these experts that these reports are for his clients in Asia. In reality, they were handed over to the Chinese government to help them extract information of a sensitive nature.
Wei managed to net some very important people into his front organization. These included people working in the US Army, Air Force, and State Department. They were paid a handsome sum ranging from $1000-$2000.
Recruitment of the spy
Wei might have been chosen for the job due to his nationality. A person from Singapore is unlikely to arouse the suspicion of American officials, despite his Chinese heritage. He was a student seeking a PhD from the Lee Kuan Yew University of Singapore and enrolled in that institute in 2015.
It was in the same year that the Chinese intelligence agencies approached and recruited him while he visited Beijing. In 2018, he was directed by his handlers to move to USA and open a consultancy firm for his secret work.
The former academician obliged and even named his firm the same as another famous consulting firm that looks after relations between government and citizens. It was in January 2019 that he moved to the country's capital Washington DC where he stayed till July.
With his arrest, the distrust between the two countries, arising out of the US administration's decision to ask the Chinese government to close their consulate in Houston, is bound to increase.
The Chinese have hit back by asking the American government to shut down one of their consulates in China. At a time when President Trump and his administration are also trying to put China in the dock for their role in letting Coronavirus crisis escalate, this matter will only add fuel to the fire.