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China offers citizens up to $15,000 reward for national security tip-offs

Rewards range from material to "spiritual" in Beijing's drive to increase vigilance about potential threats.
Daily life in Chinaâs Shenzhen
Chinese people are encouraged to tell the government about suspected foreign agents or other potential threats to national security.Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

China is to offer rewards of up to $15,000 for information on potential breaches of national security.

Rewards for tip-offs on foreign spies have existed in China for years, but the new measures seek to regulate the incentives nationally and encourage more citizens to expose threats, the Ministry of State Security said via the state-run outlet Legal Daily on Tuesday.

“The formulation of the measures is conducive to fully mobilizing 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 ministry said.

The cash rewards range from 10,000 yuan ($1,500) to 100,000 yuan ($15,000) for “particularly significant contributions to the prevention, suppression and punishment of acts seriously endangering national security.”

Non-cash “spiritual” rewards may be offered instead, in the form of certificates. The ministry may hold a ceremony to hand over the award to an informant, if they consent.

Whistleblowers can provide information online, by phone or by post and they can do so anonymously, the ministry said, but they must provide personal details to receive an award. If two people submit the same information, only the first one gets any reward.

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The new measures were in keeping with President Xi's thoughts on national security, state media said. Qilai Shen / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The move appeared to be warmly welcomed on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social network. One user said: “If I can find any, honestly, I’ll tip off even without any reward.” Another said it would be a benefit to the nation.

It comes ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, a key meeting that takes place twice a decade and is expected to be held later this year. President Xi Jinping is expected to be handed a third term in power, unprecedented in modern times.

The new measures were in keeping with Xi's "thought on the rule of law and the overall national security," the state-controlled Xinhua news agency said.

China launched a hotline for the reporting of national security threats in 2015 and the government in Beijing has long publicized the dangers posed by foreign spies, an issue of particular relevance given the growing clash between China and the West.

A comic strip in 2016 told government workers to be wary of handsome foreigners, in case they later turn out to be secret agents.

Separately, police in Hong Kong relaunched a counter-terrorism hotline on Wednesday and are offering cash rewards for information related to what the force called extremists and radicals.

The hotline was launched in 2019 amid widespread pro-democracy protests. The popular movement has been stamped out after Beijing imposed a strict security law.