French Are Target of Widespread Spying by Chinese, Figaro Says

(Bloomberg) -- Thousands of French civil servants, scientists, high-level private-sector managers and other influential people are the targets of an unprecedented espionage effort by China, according to Le Figaro newspaper.

French intelligence agencies, in a report sent to the government on Oct. 19, describe the Chinese spy network as elaborate and widespread, with targets contacted through professional social networks, especially LinkedIn, the Figaro reported Tuesday. Several hundred French have been compromised, it said.

The efforts represent an “unprecedented threat against the national interests,” the newspaper said, adding that 1,700 of about 4,000 French targets are from country-wide institutions. The Chinese spies operate online using fake identities of people supposedly working in human resources, consulting or think tanks who tempt recruits with all-expense paid trips to China.

French civil servants are now being warned about approaches and urged to refuse them, the newspaper said.

One example cited by the Figaro is an unidentified Chinese company that used its French arm to scout out innovative startups and technology. Another is of a French laboratory that was missing equipment after taking on a Chinese researcher. In a final example described in the intelligence report, a startup was stripped of its innovative technology after an approach from a Chinese investor.

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