BEIJING • China's capital is stepping up a campaign against foreign espionage, offering rewards of up to 500,000 yuan (S$101,750) to citizens who blow the whistle on suspected spies, state media said.
Since taking office in 2013, President Xi Jinping has overseen a raft of laws and campaigns to secure China's national security against both domestic and foreign threats.
The "pressing" need for new measures to guard against foreign spies is an unfortunate side effect of China's reform and opening up to the world, the official Beijing Daily newspaper said.
"Foreign intelligence organs and other hostile forces have also seized the opportunity to sabotage our country through political infiltration, division and subversion, stealing secrets and collusion," it added.
Starting yesterday, the Beijing City National Security Bureau is encouraging citizens to join counter-intelligence efforts by offering rewards of 10,000 yuan to 500,000 yuan for information on spies.
The government has acquired new powers to safeguard China, with a national security law passed in 2014, followed by measures on counter-terrorism, the management of foreign non-government bodies and cyber security.
Western governments have spoken out against the new measures that they say define China's national interests too broadly, and could be used to intensify a crackdown on dissent.
China says the laws are fitting, given the reality of its national security concerns.
China launched a series of warnings against espionage last April, publicising rare details of spy cases in state media, and highlighting how romantic relationships may be used to uncover sensitive information.
Rewards to encourage security vigilance are a common government tactic used, for instance, to draw out information on "terrorism" in far western Xinjiang.
Working with employees of state organisations to harm China's national interests, encouraging defection and buying state secrets are some behaviours that could be reported, the Beijing Daily said.
Discovering spy equipment, such as recording and monitoring devices, could bring extra rewards.
But people exploiting the new measures to frame rivals will be held accountable, the paper warned, although good-faith errors will attract no reprisals.