China accuses foreign reporters of spying

PEKING (Reuter) - An official Chinese publication has called for vigilance against foreign reporters who obtain secret documents, saying the incidence of serious espionage by journalists is rising.

The weekly magazine Outlook made the accusation despite reports that authorities had relaxed their surveillance of foreign journalists in hopes of clinching the 2000 Olympic Games for Peking.

'In recent years, illegal activities of espionage by foreign correspondents became more serious and so we have to be more vigilant against illegal theft of secret documents by foreign correspondents,' the magazine said. 'We have to take appropriate measures.' It said Chinese who passed on secret documents should be treated severely. 'We have to mete out harsh punishment to those who provide such documents to foreign correspondents.'

The article cited the case of Andrew Higgins, correspondent for the Independent, who was expelled from China in 1991 for allegedly obtaining secret papers.