National security authorities in China have arrested four people working for a military contractor for allegedly “selling classified information to overseas intelligence agencies”, according to a report by West China Metropolis Daily.

The suspects all work for the same company in Sichuan Province but did not know each other, the report said, without providing the name of the company.

Three of the four suspects were recruited online while the other was approached by an overseas friend, the report said.

spy photo

Two suspects, whose family names were given as Wen and Wang, met their recruiter on QQ, an instant messaging service in China. They gave the recruiter information on military products their employer was manufacturing, including product model, design, production number, material and malfunction records, in exchange for 3,000 to 4,000 yuan a month, according to the report.

Another suspect, surnamed Wu, received a generous offer from a “headhunter” after he resigned from the military contractor. A salary of half a million to 1.2 million yuan was offered, the report said.

The fourth suspect, surnamed Li, gave away information on aerospace technology. He also helped recruit another spy, a postgraduate student studying at an aeronautics university, the report said.

The report did not mention if the suspects have been formally charged. According to Chinese law, people convicted of espionage face three years to life in prison. For cases which cause “particularly serious harm”, the death sentence is applicable.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.