WASHINGTON: China has detained a top security official for passing sensitive information to the United States, in the highest-level spy case involving the two countries since the 1980s, reports said.
Citing an unnamed "person with knowledge of the case," The New York Times said the official, who was arrested earlier this year, was believed to be an employee in the Ministry of State Security, China's main intelligence agency.
Hong Kong's New Way magazine said the detained official was a secretary to a vice minister at the ministry. The vice minister, who was not named, has also been suspended from duty, the New Way report said.
"What is unbelievable is that the person involved in this spy case is a secretary to a vice minister who is handling China's top secrets, which means all the confidential documents sent to the vice minister pass through the secretary first," the magazine said.
"The incident has caused the concerns and worries of Chinese top leadership, and (President) Hu Jintao has ordered an investigation to get to the bottom of the matter," the magazine said, adding that Hu was "shocked and angry".
The magazine said the official was recruited by the CIA when he studied in the United States. New Way described it as the highest-level spy case involving China and the United States since China's Yu Qiangsheng defected in 1985.
The United States and Chinese governments have not given any hint publicly of the discovery of the spying suspect. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visiting Oslo on Friday, declined to comment on the reports.
The unnamed official was detained around the time that the Communist Party was dealing with a fragile moment in relations with the United States, The Times noted.