A former Central Intelligence Agency officer was arrested for plotting with a relative, who also worked for the CIA, to spy on China.
Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, was arrested on Friday and charged, the US Department of Justice said.
He is accused of disclosing confidential information on national defense to Chinese intelligence officials.
This is the latest spy arrest at a time of growing tension between Washington and Beijing.
Mr. Ma is due in court on Tuesday and faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.
What do we know about Mr. Ma?
Mr. Ma, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hong Kong, began working for the CIA in 1982.
Prosecutors said he left the CIA seven years later and worked in the Chinese city of Shanghai before moving to Hawaii in 2001.
They accuse Mr. Ma and his relative of spying for China over the course of a decade in a scheme that began with meetings in Hong Kong in March 2001.
Former CIA officers are accused of sharing information “on CIA personnel, operations and methods of concealing communications” with Chinese intelligence.
Part of their meeting in Hong Kong was videotaped and shows Mr Ma having $ 50,000 (£ 38,000) in cash for secrets they shared, the statement said.
While living in Hawaii, according to court documents, he then sought to work with the FBI to once again gain access to classified U.S. government information to pass to China.
He was hired by the FBI office in Honolulu in 2004 as a contract linguist and is accused of stealing documents marked secret.
It is not known why it took so long to arrest Mr. Ma.
The anonymous relative that prosecutors say Mr. Ma conspired with is now 85 years old. He is also a naturalized US citizen, born in Shanghai.
Court documents say prosecutors are not seeking an arrest warrant against him at this time because he suffers from “advanced and debilitating cognitive disease.”
What are the other cases of espionage?
This is the latest arrest in a series of cases against former intelligence officers.
In November, another former CIA officer, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for conspiring to spy for China.
The information Mr. Lee shared is believed to have helped China bring down a network of informants between 2010 and 2012.
About 20 informants were killed or imprisoned during this period in one of the most disastrous failures of US intelligence services in recent years.
In May 2019, Kevin Mallory, another former CIA agent, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of conspiring to pass US defense secrets to China.
Former US intelligence officer Ron Rockwell Hansen was sentenced in September to 10 years in prison.
In Monday’s statement, Assistant National Security Attorney General John C. Demers said: “The trail of Chinese espionage is long and, unfortunately, littered with former US intelligence agents who have betrayed their colleagues. , their country and its liberal democratic values to support an authoritarian communist. diet. ”
“Whether it’s immediately, or years after they thought they’d get away with it, we will find these traitors and bring them to justice.” “
Why are tensions particularly high now?
The relationship between the United States and China has fallen to its lowest point in decades.
They have been locked in a bitter trade war since 2018 and earlier this month US President Donald Trump threatened to ban the popular Chinese app TikTok.
The two economic superpowers have also clashed over the coronavirus pandemic and the controversial new security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong.
Last month, a Singaporean pleaded guilty in the United States to working as an agent for China.
According to court documents, he was recruited by the Chinese intelligence services in 2015, when he was a doctoral student at a prestigious Singaporean university, after giving a presentation in Beijing.
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Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, has been accused of using his political consultancy in America to gather information for Chinese intelligence.
The United States has also pursued charges of economic espionage against China in recent years.
About 80% of all economic espionage prosecutions initiated by the Justice Ministry “allege conduct that would benefit the Chinese state,” the department said on its website.