Where in the World is Dong Jingwei?

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Maybe I’ve been too engrossed in Charles McCarry’s wonderful spy novels, but this week the story of the disappearance  of Chinese vice-minister of State Security (the Guoanbu) Dong Jingwei strikes me as the most fascinating report of the week. While we are unlikely to get the full story  for a while — if ever — I think he’s in the U.S. under deep cover and that has to concern both the leaders of China and any  CCP operatives there may be in the Deep State.

Background

As the rumor goes (first reported in Spy Talk), Dong and his daughter, Dong Yang, in mid-February defected by private plane out of Hong Kong and were taken in by General Michael Flynn’s old agency the Defense Intelligence Agency because they did not trust the FBI or CIA. Dong’s daughter is or was married to Jiang Fan, president of two partners of the Alibaba Group,  the most powerful Chinese e-commerce group,  who was removed from those positions in April of last year ostensibly as punishment for marital infidelity.

I don’t think people just hop on a plane out of Hong Kong and show up at DIA headquarters. If the rumor is true, I’d imagine contact was made in Hong Kong in advance, and that would be some amazing bit of spycraft given the extent of surveillance the CCP places on both Chinese citizens and foreign visitors.

The earliest report I can find of the reported defection was on June 4 from former Fox Reporter Adam Housley, who tweeted “US intelligence has a Chinese defector with Wuhan info. And China is trying to produce variants that suggest it came from bats to cover up that coronavirus originally came from a lab.”

Red State amplified this report on the same day.  Describing Dong as one of the highest-ranking Chinese defectors,  the publication added details about the information he was said to have provided and the role of DIA in the defection.

Sources tell RedState the defector has been with the DIA for three months and that he has provided an extensive, technically detailed debrief to US officials. In DIA’s assessment, the information provided by the defector is legitimate. Sources say the level of confidence in the defector’s information is what has led to a sudden crisis of confidence in Dr. Anthony Fauci, adding that U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) personnel detailed to DIA have corroborated very technical details of information provided by the defector.

Further, Red State explained why the defector sought out the DIA, instead of the FBI or CIA:

FBI Director Christopher Wray was “ambushed” with the information, they say, and Langley was also unaware. Sources say DIA leadership kept the defector within their Clandestine Services network to prevent Langley and the State Department from accessing the person, whose existence was kept from other agencies because DIA leadership believes there are Chinese spies or sources inside the FBI, CIA, and several other federal agencies.

Spy Talk, citing an account by Han Lianchao, a former Chinese foreign minister who defected after 1989, reports that Chinese officials at the Sino-American summit in Alaska  “demanded that the Americans return Dong, and secretary of State Anthony Blinken refused.” Other accounts say Blinken was unaware of the defection at the time as DIA had kept the news secret and the defector hidden. Of course, Blinken may have known and was pretending not to for strategic reasons. After all, if he admitted Dong was here, demands for his return would certainly have escalated.

Is Dong Here?

Both China and the U.S. deny Dong is here. Moreover, people with experience in such matters remind us that there are  rumors of defections which do not pan out regularly. The State Department last week denied the defection report, asserting Dong was still in China. Still, Dong hasn’t been seen in public in China since September 2020, according to Han. Other evidence that this may be more than a rumor are these:

1. The Biden Administration has just made a rapid about face on the source of the COVID-19 virus. After regularly claiming it was of natural origin, it is suddenly endorsing calls for a thorough investigation and conceding it may have been a Wuhan lab leak.

2. China could put an end to the speculation by posting a current picture of Dong but hasn’t.

China’s officially sanctioned media reported last Friday that Dong had appeared at a MSS seminar on the mainland where he “urged the country’s intelligence officers” to crack down on enemy spies, according to an account in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. But the reports did not say where the seminar took place, nor did they include photos or video of Dong’s supposed appearance, further raising suspicions about his status. Dong’s identity is not secret: In 2018, Beijing released a photo of him and other members of a Chinese delegation attending Sino-German security talks. 

3. Reading tea leaves I suppose, but Gordon G. Chang tweeted about another defector:

Did #DongJingwei leave #China? The #CommunistParty on the 19th issued a propaganda piece on Gu Shunzhang, a 1930s defector. Gu’s family was slaughtered after his defection. Some #Chinese are speculating that the #CCP is warning others not to defect.

If the Rumors Are True, Why Deny the Reports?

As head of internal security (counterintelligence) Dong would have a lot of information damaging to the Chinese government which would be invaluable to learn. He would be a clear target of assassination and must be kept well-hidden by us. He may even know of persons in our government working with the CCP and those people have every reason for concern. Then there’s the administration’s desire to keep U.S.-China tensions from escalating over this. We may never know if the rumors are true or false, but I am inclined to think there is something to them.

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