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Chinese hostess club in Kyoto linked to espionage after customers leak information

Location of the club in Gion

TOKYO (TR) – A probe into fake marriages in June has lead investigators to a case of possible industrial espionage involving technology companies and a high-end hostess club in Kyoto’s Gion district that employed Chinese women, law enforcement said on Thursday, reports the Sankei Shimbun (Sept. 26).

According to investigators, management executives and engineers at more than five leading-edge companies that produce electronics components and precision equipment in Kyoto came to the club, which was not named but said to be located near Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama Ward, and discussed upcoming technologies and strategies for the Chinese market in the presence of the hostesses and the female manager, a Chinese national who reportedly has relatives in the upper ranks of the Chinese Communist Party.

“Some engineers showed design drawings to the hostesses,” said an investigator.

The club, which had between seven and eight hostess on staff and reportedly charged customers 20,000 yen for entry, opened in 2007 and closed in June, following the arrest of a 32-year-old hostess for engaging in a fake marriage with a Japan Self-Defense Force member, 52, who was also arrested. She was subsequently found guilty.

The Self-Defense Force member, who was dismissed from duty and is currently under prosecution in the fake marriage case, was a regular at the club. The manager also faced charges in the matter but her indictment was later suspended.

A separate article in the Sankei points out that cases of espionage involving China have taken place in the recent past. In 2007, Aichi Prefectural Police arrested Yang Luchuan, a Chinese employee at car parts manufacturer Denso, for allegedly downloading 130,000 designs from the company’s database without authorization. In March of last year, a similar case of unauthorized data copying by a Chinese employee took place at machine tools manufacturer Yamazaki Mazak.

“In recent years, Chinese authorities have attached great importance to scientific and technical information,” said an investigator. “The private sector is not an uncommon target, and exclusive clubs are considered suitable for information gathering.”

When the Sankei interviewed the manager of the Kyoto club she denied being a spy. “A lot of different customers came to the club, but they never talked about their work,” she said.