Opinion / Zhu Ping

Help students out of spy net

By Zhu Ping ( Updated: 2014-08-07 14:45

Help students out of spy net
A boy looks up as he walks past the closed coffee shop owned by Canadian couple Kevin Garratt and Julia Dawn Garratt in Dandong, Liaoning province, August 5, 2014.[Photo/Agencies] 

A Harbin student surnamed Chang, who majored in aerospace, was detained for selling intelligence material to foreigners. In an unrelated case, a Canadian couple who ran a coffee shop in Dandong, a city close the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is under investigation for the suspected theft of military and intelligence information and for threatening China’s national security.

The cases are the latest in a series which highlights challenges faced by Chinese intelligence.

Chang was suspected of collecting more than 60 pieces of intelligence and sending them overseas 54 times over about two years, and being paid more than 200,000 yuan ($32,000) by "foreign individuals" who had contacted him via the Internet.

Early this year a series of leaks were reported, and many involved college students and were conducted online. It’s high time intelligence authorities tightened up security measures and raised awareness of information protection on campus. However, such measures will be far from enough.

The authorities and society needs to discover a deeper reason why college students more easily fall pray to foreign spy networks and prevent more students becoming pawns in foreign espionage.

Chang said he used to look for part-time jobs on the Internet to ease the family financial burden. Someone contacted him online and asked him to collect material pre-paying several thousand yuan. Despite being aware such a practice was a crime, Chang couldn’t resist the money.

Of course Chang will pay a price if he is proved to have violated laws. His reasons can’t be an excuse for him to evade punishment. However, isn’t he at the same time a victim of the spy network?

His case shows that students don’t lack a sense of law nor intelligence. But he was lured into spying because of his financial difficulties.

This year college students received an average monthly salary of 2,443 yuan for their first formal jobs after graduation, How can people expect them to cover the cost of living with part-time jobs? Meanwhile, there is news that many provinces are to hike fees for higher education, some by up to 50 percent.

There is no doubt financially-challenged college students should be encouraged to be more independent and support themselves, but the government needs to invest more in higher education. Colleges and universities must provide diversified scholarships and student subsidies and guide students into part-time jobs. If not, it may be that more needy students become fishes of spy anglers despite the intelligence authorities' warnings.

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