The Beijing government is offering cash rewards of up to 500,000 yuan ($72,400) to whistle-blowers who report on espionage activities.
Beijing Municipality's National Security Bureau published the new reward scheme, which took effect on Monday, to encourage the public to report any suspicious espionage activities, with successful tip-offs netting tipsters cash payments of between 10,000 and 500,000 yuan.
According to the bureau, espionage activities include working for foreign espionage organizations in any capacity, or accepting tasks from such organizations. Espionage activities also include incidents in which overseas institutions, organizations or individuals obtain State secrets through their own prying, according to the notice.
The bureau said the new policy was based on the fact that Beijing is the top destination for spies who want to infiltrate, subvert, split or sabotage China.
The bureau also said it will protect the security of the whistle-blowers, but those who intentionally give inaccurate or misleading information will be held legally accountable.
'Overly concerned' West
The new policy has some Western governments worried. Reuters reported that diplomats fear the new measures may define China's national interests too broadly, flagging a risk that they could be used to intensify a crackdown on dissent.
Li Yunlong, professor of international strategic studies at the Central Communist Party School, told the Global Times that the West is "overly concerned" about China's latest anti-espionage efforts.
The new scheme only encourages people to provide information about spies, which is the legal responsibility of every Chinese citizen, said Li, adding that the Chinese government won't harass someone "out of the blue" if that person did not do anything to sabotage the country.
The government still has to verify these tips, and will conduct everything according to the law, said Li.
Wang Hongwei, a professor at the School of Public Administration and Policy at the Renmin University, said that the new policy can encourage people to provide information, thus improving state security bureaus' work efficiency.
However, Li Daguang, a professor at the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army, told the Global Times that the public may only be able to notice "low-level" spies, who are not well-trained or assigned with important tasks. "But it's better than no help at all; it is tough for the government to detect spies by themselves," said Li Daguang.
Yang Jianying, a professor at the School of Public Administration of the University of International Relations, said that the state security bureaus used to be opaque to the public, but the complicated anti-spy situation is changing the way such agencies are perceived by using mass mobilization to enhance their work.
Long before Beijing, security authorities of Jilin and Hainan provinces launched counter-espionage hotlines in 2015, through which citizens and organizations could report suspected espionage.
Wang said that, apart from encouraging the public to provide information, raising people' consciousness of state security is of utmost importance when comes to anti-espionage.
Three people in East China's Jiangsu Province were sentenced in May 2015 for selling state information to foreign espionage groups on the Internet, china.com reported. One, a 32-year-old man surnamed Wu, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for threatening military security by selling 11 classified military documents and 120 military device photos to foreign espionage organizations.
The People's Liberation Army Daily reported in April 2016 that, apart from ex-servicemen and those with a keen interest in military matters, overseas students, university staff members and students, as well as government employees and research fellows, are the people most likely to be recruited by overseas agencies.
Apart from those lured by foreign powers to serve as spies, netizens should be aware of leaking crucial information online as well, warned Li Daguang, adding that many may not even realize that they were leaking crucial state secrets when talking to others online.