Chinese Communist Party database leak reveals infiltration into Western companies
An unprecedented data leak has revealed how alleged Chinese Communist Party members have embedded themselves inside some of the world’s biggest companies, including defence contractors, banks and pharmaceutical giants manufacturing coronavirus vaccines.
The Australian newspaper has obtained the leaked database of almost two million CCP members – including their party position, birthdate, national ID number and ethnicity – and 79,000 branches, many of them inside companies, universities and even government agencies.
Among the companies identified as having CCP members in their employ are manufacturers like Boeing and Volkswagen, drug giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and financial institutions including ANZ and HSBC, according to the reports.
The membership records also show that the CCP has infiltrated the Australian, British and US consulates in Shanghai, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade using a Chinese government agency, the Shanghai Foreign Agency Service Department, to hire local staff.
“It is believed to be the first leak of its kind in the world,” The Australian journalist and Sky News host Sharri Markson said.
“Allowing members of the CCP to work for such companies risks their stealing technology, providing intelligence to China on forthcoming weapons systems and capabilities, or on force structures built around those capabilities,” one intelligence officer told The Australian.
“Imagine if a CCP member was allowed to work on the new Australian submarine project, and got technical data on the performance of the subs. This would give the Chinese navy a massive advantage and put Australian lives at risk.”
Leaked files expose mass infiltration of UK firms by Chinese Communist Party including AstraZeneca, Rolls Royce, HSBC and Jaguar Land Rover
JAKE RYAN, JONATHAN BUCKS and HOLLY BANCROFT for the Mail on Sunday
Loyal members of the Chinese Communist Party are working in British consulates, universities and for some of the UK’s leading companies, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
An extraordinary leaked database of 1.95 million registered party members reveals how Beijing’s malign influence now stretches into almost every corner of British life, including defence firms, banks and pharmaceutical giants.
Most alarmingly, some of its members – who swear a solemn oath to ‘guard Party secrets, be loyal to the Party, work hard, fight for communism throughout my life…and never betray the Party’ – are understood to have secured jobs in British consulates.
Among them is a senior official at the British Consulate in Shanghai. Its headquarters are also home to intelligence officers from the UK security services.
The official describes their role as supporting ministers and officials on visits to East China.
While there is no evidence that anyone on the party membership list has spied for China – and many sign up simply to boost their career prospects – experts say it defies credulity that some are not involved in espionage. Responding to the findings, an alliance of 30 MPs last night said they would be tabling an urgent question about the issue in the Commons.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday today, former Tory Party leader Iain Duncan Smith says:
‘This investigation proves that members of the Chinese Communist Party are now spread around the globe, with members working for some of the world’s most important multinational corporations, academic institutions and our own diplomatic services.
‘The Government must now move to expel and remove any members of the Communist Party from our Consuls throughout China. They can either serve the UK or the Chinese Communist Party. They cannot do both.’
The Foreign Office last night insisted that it has ‘robust procedures in place to keep information secure and to vet staff at our overseas posts’. It is understood they are aware that they employ party members.
However, a senior Whitehall intelligence source said the revelations did raise security questions. ‘In that station [the official] will be sat one floor away from the MI6 team and could have identified intelligence officers.’
The database was originally leaked on Telegram, the encrypted instant messaging app, and passed in September by a Chinese dissident to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), which comprises more than 150 legislators around the world who are concerned by the influence and activities of the Chinese government.
Dating from 2016, it includes the names of party members in Shanghai, the largest city in China and its financial hub.
The list is divided into more than 79,000 branches, many of them affiliated to individual companies or organisations.
In total, the Chinese Communist Party has more than 92 million members, but competition to join is fierce with fewer than one in ten applicants successful.
After authenticating the material, with the help of data security analysts Internet 2.0, IPAC passed the database to four media organisations around the world, including The Mail on Sunday. Detailed analysis of it by this newspaper reveals that:
- A party member who studied at St Andrews University worked at various consulates in Shanghai including that of the UK;
- Chinese academics who swore the oath to assist the party attended British universities where they were involved in potentially sensitive areas of research including aerospace engineering and chemistry;
- There were more than 600 party members across 19 branches working at the British banks HSBC and Standard Chartered in 2016. Both have drawn criticism for their response to Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong;
- The pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca – both involved in the development of coronavirus vaccines – employed a total 123 party loyalists;
- Firms with defence industry interests including Airbus, Boeing and Rolls-Royce employed hundreds of party members.
Security sources believe the initial data leak came from a dissident who targeted an outwardly unremarkable office block in Shanghai which housed the records.
Despite the near certainty of being executed for treason if caught, he or she probably accessed it via a server before downloading it on to a laptop and releasing it on Telegram where it was found by IPAC.
As well as the names of members, the database has places, dates of birth, Chinese ethnicity and in some cases addresses and telephone numbers.
The consular official is registered in a communist party branch within a company called the The Shanghai Foreign Agency Service Corporation, a state-owned employment agency.
Oath of loyalty which party members swear
New members of the Chinese Communist Party swear an oath of loyalty in front of a traditional flag bearing a hammer and sickle to signify proletarian solidarity.
With fist raised, they say: ‘It is my will to join the Communist Party of China, uphold the Party’s program, observe the provisions of the Party Constitution, fulfil a Party member’s duties, carry out the Party’s decisions, strictly observe Party discipline, guard Party secrets, be loyal to the Party, work hard, fight for communism throughout my life, be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the Party and the people, and never betray the Party.’
While there are 92 million members across China, this equates to just six per cent of the population. Indeed, competition is fierce with less than one in ten applicants accepted.
The rewards are not purely ideological. Senior positions in business, academia and government are almost exclusively occupied by party members.
Experts say that since coming to power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasised the importance of the Party with members compelled to attend more regular meetings and undergo appraisals.
It employs almost 2,000 people and its website says it ‘provides comprehensive and high-quality services to more than 100 foreign organisations in Shanghai including foreign consulates, foreign news media, and foreign schools’.
Analysis of the data shows at least 249 Communist Party members were registered with the agency in 2016.
Academics on the membership list include some living and working in the UK. They include a research fellow in aerospace engineering at a leading university who also works for a private company.
Aerospace engineering is designated by the British Government as among the seven most militarily sensitive university subjects.
Students from countries that are not in the EU or the ‘Five Eyes’ network of Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are required to have an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate.
During the application process, they are asked to declare any state-linked funding, although some security experts fear the vetting process is not stringent enough. The research fellow did not respond to a request for comment last night.
The US security services have been increasingly concerned about the threat of Chinese espionage on campuses.
In the nine months to September, 14 Chinese nationals were charged over alleged spying offences and the Trump administration last week changed its visa rules so members of the Chinese Communist Party and their families can stay or get travel documents for only a month.
Last week, John Ratcliffe, the US Director of National Security, warned that China posed the ‘greatest threat to democracy and freedom’ since the Second World War and was striving to dominate ‘the planet economically, militarily and technologically’.
Australia revoked the visas of two professors from China in September amid suspicions they were involved in espionage. One of the men appears on the leaked membership list.
The database also reveals that party members work for many British and international companies in China, several involved in the defence or pharmaceutical industries.
Rolls-Royce, Boeing, Airbus and the French defence contractor Thales each have dozens of party members or more on their books while the British banking giants HSBC and Standard Chartered both have hundreds. Jaguar Land Rover was another company with staff who were members of the party.
Cosco, a major Chinese shipping firm, even has two branches in the UK for its seven members. Three are based at the port of Felixstowe, Suffolk, which receives almost half of Britain’s container trade.
In total, the list for 2016 reveals 2,909 members working for Cosco across 118 branches worldwide.
None of the companies above said they banned members of the Chinese Communist Party from being employees.
There is no evidence that any of the firms named above has been targeted or fallen victim to espionage and each insists it has measures in place to protect data, staff and customers.