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Germany Suspects China of Spying on Uighur Expatriates -- Police Raid in Munich

November 25, 2009

Authorities suspect that the Chinese Consulate in
Munich is a hotbed of espionage activity.
By Holger Stark
Spiegel (Germany)
November 24, 2009

Authorities suspect that the Chinese Consulate in
Munich is a hotbed of espionage activity.

German investigators on Tuesday morning searched
the residences of four suspected Chinese spies.
According to information obtained by SPIEGEL
ONLINE, the suspects had been spying on Munich's
Uighur community on orders from the Chinese government.

Unlike China's imposing embassy in Berlin, the
general consulate in Munich is no symbol of
power. The representative office in the Bavarian
capital is located in the upmarket district of
Neuhausen in an inconspicouous corner building close to Nymphenburg Palace.

If you believe the consulate's own PR, the
institution deals with pleasant issues such as
business and travel visas, the Olympic Games or
German-Chinese trade relations. But if German
investigators are to be believed, this idyll is
merely a facade behind which the Chinese
intelligence service is operating a network of spies.

On Tuesday morning, officers from Germany's
Federal Criminal Police Office and the Bavarian
police searched the homes of four Chinese
nationals in the Munich area, SPIEGEL ONLINE has
learned. They are under suspicion of being
intelligence service agents for the Chinese
government tasked with spying on Munich's large
expatriate community of Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic
minority in China that has been engaging in
violent protests this year against perceived discrimination.

A Center for Expatriate Uighurs

Several hundred Uighurs live in exile in Munich,
and many of them are politically active. Munich
has one of the world's largest exile communities
of Uighurs and the World Uighur Congress is based
there. The government in Beijing is interested in
everything the Uighurs think, talk about or plan.
The Uighurs are one of the "five poisons" the
Communist government is fighting against with all the means at its disposal.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office has discovered
that the Chinese government has been recruiting a
number of informants to spy on Munich's Uighur
community. Investigators believe that the
suspected group of agents is controlled from
within the Munich consulate by a consul who has
been observed conducting conspirative meetings
with the alleged agents. The consul himself has
diplomatic immunity from prosecution in Germany
but prosecutors are investigating four of his alleged informers.

The investigation presents yet another strain on
the already tense relationship between China and
Germany. The spying activities in Munich are
closely coordinated with Beijing, with the consul
reporting directly to the homeland. The Chinese
government is following every step taken by the
German government with interest.

The rigid countermeasures taken by German
officials are new. Last year, the Federal
Prosecutor's Office established a procedure
whereby all evidence regarding suspected Chinese
spying activities was collated, but until
Tuesday, no searches or arrests had been carried
out. Officials largely limited themselves to
keeping a close eye on hostile behavior on the
part of the Chinese government and on the extreme
interest showed by consulate employees in
Munich's community of Uighurs in exile.

Two years ago, the Chinese diplomat Ji Wumin, who
also lived in Munich, had to leave the country
after investigators observed him meeting around a
dozen times with spies who provided him with
information about the Uighur community. Ji left before he could be expelled.

Ji's case remains a source of tension in
diplomatic relations between China and Germany.
Beijing would like to send Ji back to Munich, but
Berlin fears that he would merely resume his
previous spying activities. Tuesday's searches,
however, make Ji's return unlikely -- the consul
now under investigation is Ji's official successor.
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