Authorities reward over a dozen individuals for capturing 10 suspicious devices since 2020
Eleven fishermen and five "related personnel" reaped the rewards of their vigilance on Monday - quite literally - with authorities in China's Jiangsu Province remunerating them generously for capturing a total of 10 "suspicious foreign devices with spying functions in Chinese territorial waters since 2020." According to China's state-affiliated Global Times outlet, upon technical investigation all 10 drones turned out be foreign-made and "posing a threat to national security."
There have been a number of similar cases in recent years. In fact, Jiangsu Province, where the latest monetary rewards were handed out, has been holding annual conferences since 2016, aimed at both increasing residents' awareness and praising those who have intercepted suspicious devices.
In April last year, a fisherman hauled a suspected drone ship allegedly used for intelligence gathering. According to CCTV, the 3-meter unmanned vessel carried solar panels, antennas, as well as surveillance equipment. Authorities later reportedly described it as a "reconnaissance device secretly placed by a foreign country in China's waters." Back in 2018, a total of 18 people were rewarded by authorities in the said province for netting nine 'spy' devices, the BBC reported.
The seemingly unusual frequency of maritime drone sightings and captures in that region may be explained, at least in part, by its geography - Jiangsu Province boasts a coastline stretching more than 1,000km (620 miles) and facing Japan and South Korea. However, Chinese authorities have yet to reveal where any of those captured drones and unmanned vessels came from.
Beijing apparently takes the issue very seriously as evidenced by a reward plan announced back in 2017 which promises cash payments of up to 500,000 yuan ($78,783) to citizens who provide authorities with useful information on spying. Some cities in China have gone so far as to hang out banners, hold public exhibitions, and hand out brochures to raise people's awareness regarding suspected threats to national security.