Chinese 'spy' got income from renting apartments in Japan

A Chinese diplomat suspected of engaging in espionage activities in Japan allegedly earned a monthly income of about 300,000 yen (S$5000) from renting units in an apartment building he purchased in Chiba, it has been learned.

Investigative authorities suspect that Li Chunguang, a first secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, engaged in commercial activities for private gain that are banned under the Vienna Convention.

The Metropolitan Police Department has handed over documents pertaining to the case of the 45-year-old diplomat to the prosecutors office on charges of using a false identity to obtain a Certificate of Alien Registration.

Li reportedly purchased a two-story apartment building in Hanamigawa Ward, Chiba, for about 40 million yen through a local real estate agency last summer, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Built three decades ago, the building has six units that rent for 40,000 yen to 60,000 yen per month. The tenants are mainly Chinese, and there currently are no vacancies, the sources said.

Monthly rents paid into the agency's account were used to pay back the loan Li took out to purchase the building. Li was to make a profit once the rental payments exceeded the loan repayments, according to the sources.

The diplomat reportedly also bought a condominium in the city's Chuo Ward for about 12 million yen through the same real estate agency. The condo was rented to a Japanese woman.

It is highly likely that Li bought these properties for investment purposes, since he lived in the official residence for the embassy's staff in Minato Ward, Tokyo, before returning to China late last month.

Li is suspected of having violated Article 42 of the convention, which bans diplomats from engaging in commercial activities "for personal profit" in the country they are assigned to.

The real estate agency told The Yomiuri Shimbun that Li contacted the company, saying he had seen one of its advertisements.

"We were aware that he was a diplomat," an agency official said. "However, we didn't know that diplomats are banned from engaging in commercial activities."

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