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Listening Devices on Plane Angers Chinese President - 2002-01-19

Chinese President Jiang Zemin is said to be outraged over the alleged discovery of 27 bugs on his Boeing 767 jet.

Both The Washington Post, in the United States and the Financial Times of Britain quote Chinese government sources as saying the highly sophisticated, satellite-operated listening devices were discovered in the plane last fall, shortly after its delivery from the United States.

Chinese sources in the reports blame U.S. intelligence services for the bugging.

The bugs were discovered after officials noticed a high static whining noise during test flights. One bug was found in the bathroom, another in the headboard of a bed.

A Boeing spokesman said the plane in question was sold to China by Delta Airlines last year and then customized for President Jiang by two companies in Texas. Both companies have denied any wrongdoing.

The United States Central Intelligence Agency has had no comment on the report. The Financial Times says 20 Chinese Air Force Officers and two other Chinese government employees have been taken in for questioning.

This incident happens just months ahead of a major shake-up in the Chinese government. With President Jiang and several other leaders stepping down, there are several factions within the Chinese Communist Party currently jockeying for positions of power.

The United States and China clashed over espionage last spring when a United States spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea, resulting in the death of the Chinese pilot and the detention in China of the U.S. aircrew for almost two weeks.

President Bush is scheduled to meet China's President Jiang Zemin here in Beijing next month this incident could cloud talks after several months of relatively good relations between the two countries.