China’s anti-spy agency flags security risk from open window shades at dual-use airports

China’s top anti-espionage agency has highlighted security risks if passengers defy instructions to close window shades during take-off or landing at military-civil dual-use airports.

Doing so could lead to sensitive military information being leaked if they take photos or videos, the Ministry of State Security warned on Monday.

In an article posted on its official WeChat account, the ministry said such joint-use facilities, which make up nearly one-third of China’s airports, usually deploy important military equipment and passengers are not permitted to take photos of the sensitive military areas.

These airports are used for both civil aviation and regular air force training, and will be available for military use during wartime, the ministry said. Also, many of them are located near coastal and border areas “holding prominent strategic positions and significant military value”, it noted.

The ministry said the warning was issued in reference to a recent case involving a foreign national, but did not give further details.

According to domestic media reports, a foreign national on board a flight from the eastern Chinese city Yiwu to Beijing earlier this month allegedly used their phone to take photos of a joint-use airport, and a fellow passenger reported the issue.

Airport staff said the matter would be reported to the police, the reports said.

The ministry also cited a case at an unidentified airport in China’s southeastern coastal region, when a passenger opened the window shade during take-off to take videos of the facilities, buildings and military aircraft stationed there. The flier, surnamed Liu, planned to post the content on social media to show off, according to the article.

The plane was ordered to return and was only allowed to take off again after authorities verified and confirmed “the elimination of risks of leaking classified information”.

Liu was placed under administrative detention for seven days for “disrupting the order of public transport”.

There are 259 civil transport airports in mainland China, according to the latest figures from the Civil Aviation Administration.

A 2019 report from PLA Daily – the official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army – said about 60 airports in the country were for dual military-civilian use, including the Lhasa Gonggar Airport in Tibet, the western region bordering at least four countries.

In the east, the Quanzhou Jinjiang International Airport in the coastal province of Fujian, alongside the Taiwan Strait, is also a dual-use airport.

In Monday’s article, the state security ministry urged passengers to comply with instructions to close window shades during take-off, landing and taxiing at such airports.

They must not take unauthorised photos or videos, or upload the content online, it said, noting that the practice was “in line with the standard approach of countries worldwide to maintain secrecy around military facilities”.



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“Safeguarding national security is the responsibility and duty of every citizen. Unauthorised filming of military facilities and equipment poses a serious threat to national security,” it said, while also calling on the public to cooperate in maintaining the security and confidentiality of joint-use airports.

The ministry has been very active on social media over the past year, posting articles as part of a campaign to raise public awareness of national security risks. In its first post after launching a WeChat account last August, the ministry called for a whole-society approach to counter-espionage efforts.

Last week, it urged the public to report suspicious drone use in sensitive areas and warned users of the devices to be careful their actions did not leak sensitive information.

It cited a case when a military technology enthusiast used a drone with a remote high-definition camera function to “illegally photograph” a new type of warship to then brag on military forums.

State security agencies found out and the social media user was sentenced to a suspended prison term of one year for “illegally obtaining state secrets”.



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