The Conservative government should have been more concerned when one of its MPs was exposed having a relationship with a reporter for China’s state news agency, says a defector from the country’s spy service.
Li Fengzhi, a former agent with China’s Ministry of State Security, says politicians like Foreign Affairs parliamentary secretary Bob Dechert are a top target of Chinese spies keen on learning about Canadian secrets or grooming advocates for Beijing in Canada’s corridors of power.
Dechert’s affair with Toronto-based Xinhua reporter Shi Rong was revealed when someone hijacked her email account and forwarded a series of intimate messages she received from the Mississauga politician in the spring and summer of 2010. The leak was traced back to an apparent domestic dispute with Shi’s husband.
Li, who defected to the United States in 2003 and is now believed to be working for the Central Intelligence Agency, was speaking to a high-level conference on espionage through video link near Ottawa. For security reasons, his location was not disclosed.
He said it is not possible to say with certainty that a Xinhua reporter is providing intelligence back to the country’s political masters in Beijing, but the act of striking up a relationship with an elected official fits the modus operandi of Chinese spies.
“That’s the normal way to get the job done,” he said.
Shi was called back to China when the relationship hit the news, which is another reason to be suspicious, Li said.