A doctoral student from the National University of Singapore who went to Beijing to make an academic presentation on politics became a key spy for the Chinese intelligence services, gathering sensitive information about the United States military and government. Singaporean Yeo Jun Wei, also called Dickson Yeo, pleaded guilty on Friday, July 24, to setting up a fictitious consultancy as a front to collect sensitive information from the United States. In his statement, he admitted having worked between 2-15 and 2019 for Chinese intelligence, detecting and evaluting Americans with access to “valuable non-public information” through social networks, especially LinkedIn.
As revealed by the Asian TV channel, through this network aimed at business use, business and employment, he obtained information from a civilian who worked with the Air Force on the F-35B aircraft program, contacted a US official who worked at the Pentagon on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and obtained a report from a State Department person about a member of the United States Cabinet.
Yeo’s work with Chinese intelligence operatives began in 2015, when he travelled to Beijing to make a presentation on the political situation in Southeast Asia, according to court documents. At the time, I was doing a PhD in Public Policy from the National University of Singapore.
After his presentation, he was approached by individuals claiming to be China-based think tanks. They offered him money in exchange for political reports. Yeo found that at least four of these individuals were intelligence agents from the People’s Republic of China. In fact, one of them, later, asked him to sign a contract with the Chinese army. Yeo refused to sign the contract but did not hesitate to work with them, even knowing that they were from the Chinese intelligence service, he admitted in the process.
The agents commissioned him to provide information on international political, economic, and diplomatic relations, They said they wanted “non-public information,” data they referred to as “scuttlebutt,” rumors, gossip.
“Initially, the tasks were focused on Southeast Asia, but over time, the goal became the United States”, reads the court documents that CNA agreed to. Although these operatives (from the Chinese intelligence service) used pseudonyms in their interactions with Yeo, they did not hide their affiliation with the government. One of the operatives told him that he and his boss worked for the main intelligence unit of the regime, adds the file.
During one of Yeo’s trips to China, he met this spy and two others in a hotel room. During the meeting, Yeo was instructed to search for non-public information about the US Department of Commerce, artificial intelligence, and the China-US trade war. He met with operatives at various locations in China. With one of the contacts it was seen around “19 to 20 times” and with another, about 25 times. Every time Yeo traveled to China for meetings, he was taken out of the customs line and taken to a separate office to expedite his entry into the country.
Yeo used social media to find and recruit American citizens who could provide him with information. In 2018, a Chinese intelligence agent ordered him to create a bogus consulting company and post job listings for the company on LinkedIn.
He used the same name from a prominent US consulting firm that conducts public and government relations. He received 400 resumes, 90% of them from the US military and government personal, with security clearance. Yeo sent the resumes to Chinese intelligence service agents if he thought they would find interesting.
Once he set up the facade, the social network made his job easier, Every time he contacted someone who was valuable to him, in terms of sensitive information, the website suggested other possible contacts. “According to Yeo, the website’s algorithm was relentless,”. Yeo would log into the professional networking website almost every day to review the new batch of potential contacts suggested by the site’s algorithm.
After identifying their potential targets, he worked to gain their trust, recruit them, and provide information or write reports. To make it, he received Chinese training on how to trick potential targets. Thus, he asked them if they were satisfied with the work if they had financial problems if they had children to support. A short time later, he had already established a relationship with three people who ended up providing sensitive information for the United States.
In 2015, a civilian who worked with the US Air Force on the F-35-B military aircraft program, and who had a high-level security clearance, confided to Yeo that he was in financial trouble. With false promises, he recruited him to write a report on the geopolitical implications of the Japanese buying American F-35s. The data ended up in Chinese hands.
Between 2018 and 2019, Yeo saw another clear target on the LinkedIn site. This person was employed by the US State Department at the time, and he told Yeo that he was dissatisfied at work and that he was in financial trouble. He was concerned about his future. Under Yeo’s direction, the man wrote a report on a member of the USA cabinet at the time. The man, who feared to lose his retirement if authorities found out, received $ 2,000 for the data.
Another person was also recruited through the app, a US army officer who was assigned to the Pentagon. Yeo met with the officer multiple times, building a “good relationship.” The officer confided that he was traumatized by his military travels in Afghanistan. The agent asked him to write reports for clients in Korea and other Asian countries but did not say he would turn it over to a foreign government. The work explained how the withdrawal of the USA military from Afghanistan would affect China, and he was paid $ 2000. The money was transferred to the bank account of the officer’s wife.
China was enthusiastic about the information and demanded that its agent do more, and Yeo planned to do so, but in November 2019 he was finally arrested in the US.