The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now paying citizens of China to spy on each other, offering rewards of more than 100,000 yuan ($15,000) for tips on national security breaches, Chinese state media reported, according to Reuters on Tuesday.
A Ministry of State Security representative said that while rewards for turning in foreign spies and other security breaches already existed, the new effort seeks to standardize rewards in an effort to motivate Chinese citizens amid heightened foreign intelligence threats.
“The formulation of the measures is conducive to fully mobilising the enthusiasm of the general public to support and assist in national security work, widely rallying the hearts, morale, wisdom and strength of the people,” the representative said.
Chinese citizens who expose spies can also earn “spiritual rewards” in the form of certificates, rather than “material rewards” of cash. The reward will be determined by the value of the information the citizen provides, the ministry said.
Security officials would review a tip-off to determine its accuracy before awarding a certificate or cash.
Citizens who wish to participate can submit reports online, over the phone, in the mail, or in person. If more than one person provides the same information, the person who reported it first gets the award.
In April last year, the Chinese Communist Party encouraged Chinese citizens to report each other for remarks made online that defame the CCP or question its portrayal of history. The CCP dubbed the comments “mistaken opinions.”
The effort was designed to promote a “good public opinion atmosphere,” the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a notice, as reported by Newsweek.
“For a while now, some people with ulterior motives…have spread historically nihilistic false statements online, maliciously distorting, slandering and denying Party, national and military history in an attempt to confuse people’s thinking,” the notice said. “We hope that most internet users will play an active role in supervising society…and enthusiastically report harmful information.”
Center for Strategic and International Studies senior adviser Scott Kennedy, who is also trustee chair in Chinese business and economics, said the program is about controlling Chinese citizens.
“It’s simply an effort of the current leadership to control the conversation about Chinese history and to limit any debate about interpretations of different events, all with the goal of putting the current leadership and [President] Xi Jinping in the most positive light,” he said.
Kennedy added that the reporting effort was part of the “overall environment in which the scope of permissible debate has been radically shrunk.”