China denies it recruited Singaporean as spy, accuses US of 'extreme suspicion'

China yesterday refuted allegations that it recruited Singaporean Dickson Yeo Jun Wei as a spy, and instead accused the United States of having reached "a state of extreme suspicion".

Responding to questions from The Straits Times at a daily briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin denied knowledge of Yeo's prosecution in the US.

"But what I want to say is this. In a bid to smear China, US law enforcement has repeatedly made accusations about Chinese espionage activities," said Mr Wang.

"It has reached a state of extreme suspicion. We ask the US to stop this, and to stop using the issue of espionage to continue smearing China."

This is the latest in the downward spiral of diplomatic relations between both countries.

Both sides have levelled accusations of spying against the other, and ordered the closure of consulates in tit-for-tat moves.

The US had abruptly ordered shut the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, saying that it had been at the heart of China's military and industrial espionage efforts.

In retaliation, China shut the American mission in Chengdu, also accusing staff of "engaging in activities not in line with their identities", a reference to clandestine operations.

Yeo, 39, last Friday pleaded guilty in the United States to one count of acting within the country as an illegal foreign agent.

In a statement of facts submitted to the court and signed by Yeo, he admitted to being fully aware he was working for Chinese intelligence, meeting with agents dozens of times and being given special treatment when he travelled to China.

He set up a political consultancy in the US in 2018, which he used as a front to collect information for Chinese intelligence services, court documents showed.

Dickson Yeo Jun Wei has pleaded guilty in the US to one count of acting within the country as an illegal foreign agent.
Dickson Yeo Jun Wei has pleaded guilty in the US to one count of acting within the country as an illegal foreign agent.

 
 
 
 

Yeo spotted and assessed Ame-ricans with access to valuable non-public information, including American military and government employees with high-level security clearance.

He used various social media platforms for this, including professional networking site LinkedIn.

Yeo would pay his recruits to write reports that he said were meant for clients in Asia, but were actually sent to the Chinese government.

He enrolled in 2015 as a PhD student at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) in Singapore, where he researched China's framework of treatment for small states along its Belt and Road Initiative trajectory, according to the school's website.

Intelligence operatives recruited Yeo in 2015 during a visit to Beijing, where he gave a presentation on the political situation in South-east Asia.

Between June 2016 and January last year, while still at LKYSPP, Yeo visited Beijing as a researcher at Peking University's National Institute of Strategic Communication, according to his LinkedIn profile. The page has since been taken down.

He later listed himself as a doctoral fellow "working on the foreign policy of smaller strategic states in light of US-China competition" at The George Washington University in Washington from January to July last year.

Yeo, who is in custody, is set to be sentenced on Oct 9.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2020, with the headline 'China denies it recruited S'porean as spy, accuses US of 'extreme suspicion''. Print Edition | Subscribe