The Chinese government will reward citizens with cash or “spiritual” incentives if they come forward with national security tip-offs, according to plans announced by Beijing this week.
Citizens could receive cash payments ranging from less than 10,000 yuan (approximately $1,500) to more than 100,000 yuan (approximately $15,000) based on the importance of the information they provide, according to CNN. They could also receive a “spiritual reward,” like a certificate, CNN reported.
While the tactic of paying for information is not new for the country, the plans aim to unite the Chinese people around identifying foreign spies or people who are aiding them as authorities are on alert over threats from “foreign intelligence agencies and hostile forces,” a Ministry of State Security representative told state-run newspaper Legal Daily, according to Reuters.
“The formulation of the measures is conducive to fully mobilising the enthusiasm of the general public to support and assist in national security work, widely rallying the hearts, morale, wisdom and strength of the people,” the representative told Legal Daily.
The plan will apply only to new information provided and citizens will have several ways to notify the authorities, including by submitting a tip online, showing up in person, calling the national security hotline or by mail, CNN reported.
If more than one person submits the same information, the reward will go to the person who came forward first, but others could also be offered something in return, according to Reuters.
Under President Xi Jinping, China has become more authoritarian and wary of outside influence. For instance, in 2015 China created a hotline for people to report on suspected spies, while a few years later, an unofficial note was widely shared on social media laying out characteristics to identify spies, according to CNN. Characteristics included a person’s employment, including foreign correspondents or NGO employees.
The term “hostile forces” used to lay out the threats the government’s rewards system aims to target could also potentially include Chinese citizens who are critical of the government.
Hong Kong is also set to upgrade its “anti-violence hotline,” according to a press release posted on the Hong Kong police website. Authorities launched the hotline in 2019 following the protests over the national security law imposed by Beijing .
Police touted its success, saying “the hotline has addressed many reports from enthusiastic citizens.”
“After the National Security Law took effect in mid-2020, Hong Kong’s law and order has generally regained its stability,” the press release reads. “Nevertheless, police note that the activities of local extremists have turned underground and become more covert.”
For that reason, police said the anti-violence hotline will be moving to the counter terrorism hotline managed by the Inter-departmental Counter-Terrorism Unit, while calling on citizens to report violent acts and terrorism-related activities around them, and “in particular extremist plots.”
“In order to encourage the public to make reports, police are planning to pay rewards to those who provide reliable terrorism-related information,” the press release states.