Beijing: Security officials in China's northeastern Jilin province have launched a counter-espionage public hotline to report on suspected foreign spies after the recent arrest of four Japanese who were accused of spying.
The hotline targets foreign organisations and individuals who conduct espionage activities or instigate and sponsor others in conducting them.
They will be punished, as will domestic organisations and individuals who spy on China on behalf of foreign organisations and individuals, state-run Global Times said.
Jilin, which has a number of military installations, is a coastal province off the coast of East China Sea facing Japan with which China has a dispute over uninhabited islands.
"Jilin Province is an important place for safeguarding China's national security because the northeastern region is an industrial and military base. The hotline will help the local government combat spying," Song Zhongping, a Beijing- based military expert, told the Global Times.
Chinese officials have said four Japanese "spies" were arrested in September and October. This includes a male spy caught in Jilin Province allegedly carrying out espionage activities near a military facility, local media reports said.
Another province Hainan launched a similar facility in July, which has helped to crackdown on over 10 alleged espionage activities, the daily reported.
Espionage activities aiming at China have increased significantly during the past few years, Song said, adding that espionage has permeated not only military affairs, but also economic and political targets.
"China is entering a crucial period. Many foreign countries are eager to get inside information about national strategies, with others sabotaging the country's development," Song added.
With the development of the Internet, many people who seek job opportunities or friends online are likely to be manipulated by foreign agents or incited to defect, Hefei-based news site reported on Saturday.
Military enthusiasts, scientific research institutes for national defence, officials and even teachers and students in colleges have been targeted by espionage groups, Song said.
He said that as an increasing number of espionage activities take place in China, the government is deploying all its resources to fight against it.
"The counter-espionage hotline is a good way for the local government to enforce the law and deal with spying," Song added. "Other provinces may launch their own counter- espionage hotlines soon, following Jilin's lead."
Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military expert, said that individuals and organisations have difficulty getting access to sensitive information, so the tips they report to authorities might not be of much use.
"Training more professionals to crackdown espionage activities may be more effective," he said.