Chinese Military Buff Unknowingly Buys Classified State Secrets for One Dollar

A military buff in China alerted authorities after discovering that the discarded books he had bought from a recycling station for just one dollar were classified military documents.

China’s Ministry of State Security recently took to social media to praise the actions of a military enthusiast surnamed Zhang who had alerted authorities after buying some military books from a recycling station without knowing that they actually contained confidential military secrets. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Zhang called a hotline to report the incident and then handed over the documents to the appropriate authorities. The Ministry praised his responsible reaction, acknowledging that things could have been very different had the military secrets ended up in the hands of bad actors. But how do such secrets end up on the open market, especially in a strict country like China?

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“Mr. Zhang thought to himself that he had ‘bought’ the country’s military secrets and brought them home,” the Ministry’s post read, “but if someone with ulterior motives were to buy them, the consequences would be unimaginable!”

Zhang, a retiree who collects military-themed newspapers and magazines, told the Ministry of State Security that he was walking home one day when he noticed two snakeskin bags filled with books at the door of a waste paper collection point. Curious, he started looking through them and realized that some were not only in pristine condition but also related to military topics, so he asked the recycling center if he could buy them.

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The elderly military buff reportedly paid 6 yuan (about 85 cents) for four books, which he later realized contained confidential state secrets. Upon alerting the authorities about the situation, a special unit was dispatched to the paper recycling center to find out how the documents had wound up there. After an investigation, state security agents found that two military employees tasked with shredding more than 200 classified books instead sold them to a recycling center as paper waste for 20 yuan ($2.75).

The Chinese state managed to retrieve all the sold books and close the loophole, but it’s unclear what happened to the two employees who sold them instead of shredding them.

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