Mom of Navy Sailor Allegedly Encouraged Him to Spy for China

Prosecutors say she urged son to cooperate when he was approached by CCP
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2023 6:40 PM CDT
Updated Aug 10, 2023 12:30 AM CDT
Two Navy Sailors Charged With Selling Information to China
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division speaks during a press conference Thursday in San Diego about a Chinese spying case.   (Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)
UPDATE Aug 10, 2023 12:30 AM CDT

One of the Navy sailors accused of spying for China was encouraged to do so by his own mother, prosecutors say. The mother of Jinchao Wei, 22, allegedly believed that if her son sold secrets to the Chinese Communist Party he would be rewarded with a position in China's government, Fox News reports. Wei, who was born in China, was applying for naturalized citizenship in the US when the alleged spying began in 2022 after he was approached by the CCP. Wei and another sailor also accused of sharing sensitive information with China have both pleaded not guilty; the Guardian reports it's not clear whether prosecutors believe the two incidents are connected.

Aug 3, 2023 6:40 PM CDT

Two Navy sailors in California have been indicted and arrested on suspicion of turning over sensitive military information to Chinese intelligence officers, federal prosecutors announced Thursday. Jinchao Wei worked at Naval Base San Diego, and Petty Officer Wenheng Zhao worked at California's Naval Base Ventura County, CNN reports. The charges demonstrate China's "determination to obtain information that is critical to our national defense by any means, so it can be used to their advantage," Matt Olson, the Justice Department's assistant attorney general for national security, said at a news conference in San Diego.

Wei, 22, was charged with spying under the Espionage Act, per the New York Times. His job as a machinist's mate the Essex, which is moored in San Diego, included clearance that provided access to sensitive information, investigators said. At the news conference, US Attorney Randy S. Grossman said Wei is a naturalized citizen who decided to "betray his newly adopted country" rather than report contact from a Chinese operative. In one transaction, the court filing says, Wei was paid $5,000 for providing 30 technical and mechanical ship manuals.

story continues below

Zhao, 26, was charged with taking bribes to provide operational plans for a major military exercise in the Indo-Pacific to a Chinese intelligence officer posing as an economic researcher, prosecutors say. In another instance, Zhao sent photos of blueprints and diagrams of a US radar system on a military base in Okinawa, Japan, according to the filing, in exchange for about $15,000. National security officials have warned about China's interest in acquiring secrets about the US military, especially its capabilities in the Pacific. "There's no country that presents a more significant threat to our innovation, our ideas our economic security, our national security than the Chinese government," FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress recently. (More espionage stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.