Beijing: A top official of China's state-run shipbuilding firm may face death sentence for allegedly passing secrets to foreign intelligence agents about the country's first homegrown aircraft carrier, a media report said on Tuesday.
Sun Bo, former general manager of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), who is under detention for corruption, is also being investigated for passing on confidential information about Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
It is unclear what level of confidential information about the Liaoning, Sun, 57, may have given to foreign intelligence agents, but the sources said he "could even face the death penalty" or "at least a suspended death sentence", the report said.
The report, however, has not identified the foreign country to whom Sun alleged to have passed on the secrets.
"It depends on the importance of the information Sun passed to the foreign agents. If it was highly confidential, then a death penalty is waiting for him," the report quoted an unnamed official as saying.
Another source close to the Chinese navy said that the Beijing leadership may want to use Sun's case as a "warning" to other senior officials amid President Xi Jinping's ongoing anti-corruption campaign, which has snared more than 1.3 million party officials at various levels of government.
"Sun was not only the deputy Communist party head of the state-owned CSIC, but also the general manager with comprehensive shipbuilding expertise. He was in charge of the shipbuilding company's aircraft carrier projects for more than a decade.
"Sun is very likely to face the death penalty because he was the core manager taking care of the Liaoning refitting project," the report quoted the official as saying.
Liaoning, a refit of the former Soviet vessel bought from Ukraine, was commissioned in 2012.
A recent official media report said China plans to operate five aircraft carriers in the near future including two nuclear powered ones.
A late entrant into the aircraft carrier-led naval battleship formations, China is keen to acquire aircraft carriers in a hurry as it rapidly expanded the navy, coupled with the acquisition of naval bases aboard to back up its growing influence especially in the Indian Ocean and the resource-rich South China Sea.
It has already operationalised its base at Djibouti in the Indian Ocean and acquired Sri Lanka's Hambantota port for 99 years on a debt swap. China is developing Pakistan's deep water Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea.
Last month, China clinched a deal to build multi-billion dollar port at the strategic Kyaukpyu in Myanmar which is located in the Bay of Bengal.