For the very first time in history, the China arrested hackers at the request of the United States government. The arrested hackers are suspected of stealing secrets from U.S. companies to pass to Chinese state-run companies, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
The action came a week or two before President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington late last month for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama that included one of the most contentious issues between the two countries – corporate and government cyber espionage. The hackers had been identified by U.S. officials as having stolen commercial secrets from U.S. firms to be sold or passed along to Chinese state-run companies.
A source familiar with the matter said U.S. officials told China, — “We need to know that you’re serious,” was the way one individual familiar with the matter described the message. “So we gave them a list, and we said, ‘Look, here’s these guys. Round them up.”
Now, administration officials are watching to see if China will follow through with prosecutions. A public trial is important not only because that would be consistent with established principles of criminal justice, but because it could discourage other would-be hackers and show that the arrests were not an empty gesture.
The arrests are believed to be part of the recent cyber deal the US President Barack Obama struck with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, in which both the nations agreed that neither side will participate in commercial espionage against one another.
Though the arrests indicate a promising step towards a better relationship between China and the United States, the real test will be how long the Chinese government can stick to the agreement.