An influential state-run newspaper has applauded Chinaâs anti-espionage efforts after the New York Times said China had killed or imprisoned up to 20 CIA sources, hobbling US spying operations in a massive intelligence breach.
The Chinese killed at least a dozen people providing information to the US Central Intelligence Agency between 2010 and 2012, dismantling a network that was years in the making, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
Chinaâs Global Times, published by the official Peopleâs Daily, said in an editorial in its Chinese and English-language editions that, if true, it was a victory for China.
âIf this article is telling the truth, we would like to applaud Chinaâs anti-espionage activities. Not only was the CIAâs spy network dismantled, but Washington had no idea what happened and which part of the spy network had gone wrong,â the paper said.
âIt can be taken as a sweeping victory. Perhaps it means even if the CIA makes efforts to rebuild its spy network in China, it could face the same result,â it said.
However the widely read paper, which is known for its strongly nationalist stance, said one part of the report was false.
âAs for one source being shot in a government courtyard, that is a purely fabricated story, most likely a piece of American-style imagination based on ideology,â it said.
The Chinese government has yet to respond to the report.
The ministry of state security, which oversees anti-spying operations, has no publicly available telephone number and no website, unlike other Chinese ministries.
While the New York Timesâ website is blocked in China, like those of many mainstream Western news organisations, the story has been widely discussed and its contents picked up in other Chinese media, especially by online news portals.
The story has attracted thousands of comments on Weibo, Chinaâs version of Twitter, with many people expressing glee that the spy ring was broken.
âStrike hard against spy traitors, protect the countryâs security!â wrote one Weibo user.
âWell done! Good on you China,â wrote another.