China has held a lavish ceremony to reward 11 fishermen who were said to have discovered seven foreign underwater spy drones hidden off the country’s eastern coast.
The alleged espionage devices were captured last year and posed ‘serious threats to our national security’, the country’s state media reported.
The prize for each of the fishermen ranged from tens of thousands of yuan to 500,000 yuan (£55,000), according to state newspaper Global Times, quoting online sources.
Footage from a Chinese TV report shows the national security authority displaying pictures of the seven alleged espionage devices, which were said to have been found off the eastern coast
The programme also shows a signboard with pictures, which were believed to be showing the fishermen when they discovered the underwater spy drones off the coast of Jiangsu Province
The news came as Beijing tightens its grip over national security and sovereignty matters.
It also came after the Communist Party flaunted its naval might by commissioning its second aircraft carrier as well as a huge destroyer billed as the most powerful of its kind in the nation.
The award ceremony was held on Monday in the city of Nantong by the national security authority of Jiangsu Province, reported Xinhua.
A screen grab from a programme by China’s state broadcaster CCTV shows an object which was reported to be a similar spy equipment found under the South China Sea in the past
Chinese media claimed that the espionage devices were found by fishermen from Jiangsu Province. The award ceremony was held in Nantong (pictured), situated by East China Sea
It is said the fishermen from the province immediately handed the suspect equipment to the authority after hauling them up from the waters.
Jiangsu, a largely urban area north of Shanghai with a population of 80 million or so, is situated by the East China Sea, which is wedged between China, South Korea, Japan and self-ruled Taiwan.
The so-called underwater spy drones were able to carry out various espionage functions, including carrying out investigations under water, identifying objects and transmitting intelligence, Xinhua said.
The prize for each of the fishermen ranged from tens of thousands of yuan to 500,000 yuan (£55,000), according to state newspaper Global Times , quoting online sources
According to local Nantong TV, fishermen had obtained more spy gadgets last year, and seven of them were found to be made by ‘other countries’ after officials had carried out technical assessments.
The report did not reveal where the devices came from.
But regional expert and consultant Alexander Neill told BBC that they may have been sent by ‘the US Navy, the Japan Self-Defense Forces, or potentially Taiwan – this is a big area of rivalry’.
The ceremony was held by The Leaders Office of the Building of People’s Defence Line, an affiliation of the National Security Bureau of Jiangsu Province.
The authority urged all citizens to carry out their ‘sacred responsibility and glorious duty’ of protecting the country’s safety.
The locals were told to contact the authority once they come across any information that could endanger national security.
On Sunday, China commissioned a 10,000-ton-class destroyer, the Nanchang, which was said to be the biggest and most powerful of its kind in the country.
The Nanchang, China’s first Type 055 guided missile destroyer, was commissioned to the navy of People’s Liberation Army Sunday morning in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao
The official delivery of the Nanchang, the country’s first Type 055 guided missile destroyer, was meant to deter the Americans, a maritime security expert of the region told MailOnline.
The ceremony was an attempt from Beijing to ‘demonstrate its sufficient political will and military capability to the US Government, especially under the present Trump Administration’, said Collin Koh, a research fellow and maritime security expert at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
The message from Beijing was that ‘any effort to undermine or subvert Beijing’s “core interests” concerning territorial and sovereignty issues – such as the case of Taiwan, and the South China Sea – could be met with military response’, the expert added.
China’s second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, went into active service on December 17 and is stationed in the city of Sanya on the edge of the South China Sea.