Ling Jihua stole very serious secrets from China while a government official there.
Before losing his job as the Chinese equivalent of the White House Chief of Staff, Ling Jihua stole close to 3,000 of his country’s top government and military secrets. He passed those secrets to his brother, Chinese defector Ling Wangchen, a California resident, who has passed them along to American intelligence officials, The Washington Free Beacon and Asia Times have reported.
The secrets cache includes details about Chinese nuclear weapons, including how they are armed and the codes that would be used to launch attacks with them. There’s also a good deal of information about China’s leaders and the places they work, including the Beijing compound known as Zhongnanhai. Those and other details are said to have considerable value to the U.S., which has been unable to obtain them independently. Particularly valuable are some secrets that can be used to target Chinese leaders through cyber intelligence operations, the web sites noted.
Ling Wangchen, an avid golfer, is an executive with a a golf management and financial firm called Asian Pacific Group, according to the Los Angeles Times. The company owns golf courses in California and Nevada, the paper said.
Ling has a $2.5 million home in Loomis, near Sacramento. He’s lived there since 2013, but dropped from public view last year, shortly after his brother was arrested on corruption charges. He’s reportedly being harshly interrogated in connection with charges of stealing state secrets, having illicit affairs, taking bribes, and using his position to benefit relatives, The Free Beacon reported in the lengthy article later published by Asia Times.
U.S. government officials have admitted that Ling is being held and closely protected in a secret place. Intelligence agents became aware some months ago that “covert Chinese agents” are looking for him with the possible intent of killing or kidnapping him.
It’s no wonder Beijing is upset with him: It appears that the documents he’s handed over represent the U.S.’s greatest intelligence coup against China in 30 years. During that time, said Michael Pillsbury, a China specialist with the Hudson Institute, defectors have been the main source of information about the business of both business and government in China, but none until Ling revealed such a range of top-grade secrets.
“This is an intelligence windfall,” a top U.S. government official has been quoted as saying.
While it generally remains pretty closed-mouth about Ling and other types of information he may be able to reveal, the government hopes he might have knowledge of agricultural, industrial and media purchases in the U.S. that could be part of China’s grand plan to “co-opt the U.S. economy,” according to John Tkacik, a former China specialist with the State Department.
“But the most important intel he could provide,” Tkacik said, “would be on the inner workings of China’s global financial strategies, the extent to which the Chinese have infiltrated … global financial markets both with human assets and network penetrations, and have used these tools to fuel their incredible accumulation of wealth.”
Meanwhile, because China was so successfully ‘infiltrated’ by Ling Jihua, a major purging of top officials is underway there, and 72 of 85 officials who worked in 19 offices under Ling have been replaced, and at least 55 people were under investigation by last fall, according to two Hong Kong-based dissident Chinese magazines. Qianshao and Chenming published some details on the Ling case last November. London’s Sunday Times reported on their reports and got some details confirmed by U.S. officials.
Ling Jihua is believed to have been a main source for corruption investigations that resulted in the downfall of China’s top security official, Zhou Yongkang, as well as two senior military officials, The Beacon said.
That web site said as chief of the secretariat of the Party’s Political Bureau, Ling had access to “the most sensitive details available exclusively to senior Chinese leaders.” He is believed to have secreted out some 2,700 of those documents during a month-long period in mid-2012 when he was transitioning from one position to another in the government.
He and his brother had intended to use the documents as leverage to prevent prosecution of Ling Jihua, but they’d agreed the documents should be released to the U.S. if he was.