The Net Conspiracy: Yi's Story

Book One in The Net thriller series

By DM Coffman

0
16 min.
170

World Trade Organization (WTO) Legislative Committee
Washington, DC
JUNE 5, 2000

“I think I may have someone for your program,” Senator Boyle said as he took a seat in Trenton Woodbury’s office. “He’s a Chinese-American male, late twenties, who works in my office. Name’s Jason Yi. This kid’s sharp—a Georgetown Law School grad, fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese.”
Woodbury, head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Legislative Committee, picked up the phone and punched in some numbers. “Bill, this is Trent. I need a thorough background check, and I mean thorough. Name’s Jason Yi. Boyle will give you the details. I want to know if this kid so much as crossed the street the wrong way . . . Yep . . . As soon as you can.”

Three weeks later the report arrived. Woodbury immediately opened it and removed the file. He turned to the summary sheet, which stated:
Yi Jichun (nickname Jason), born in San Francisco, California on January 28, 1971, the only child of Yi Ming and Fu Yu Xuan, both of whose parents emigrated from Canton to California in the 1940s. Grandfather Yi Meung Su (deceased) was an herbal doctor; father is an accountant schooled at Columbia University . . . Jason Yi graduated high school at age sixteen. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese languages from the University of California at Berkeley, then attended Georgetown University Law School in Washington DC, specializing in international law. Admitted to the bar in Washington DC, and California . . . Described by associates as honest, intelligent, possessing tremendous fortitude; athletic, chivalrous, charitable, somewhat quick tempered but avoids quarreling . . . Skills include advanced Jie Quan Dao (martial arts) and SCUBA (to 200 feet) . . . Religious affiliation: LDS (served a two-year mission in Taiwan from 1990 to 1992 for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

Hmm,
Woodbury thought. Mormon . . . Not surprising. The CIA likes to see LDS agents fill their ranks. Very reliable and trustworthy.
“Impressive,” Woodbury spoke out loud then continued reading the report.
Yi’s driving record showed two speeding violations and one minor accident, which occurred in his first year of driving.
No warrants or arrests.
The medical report showed male, Asian, height 5 feet 10 inches, weight 163 pounds, excellent health, appendectomy at age eleven, no known allergies, eyesight normal but recommended reading glasses.
Unmarried, with no children.
Woodbury closed the folder and picked up the phone.
“Boyle,” the voice responded after several rings.
“The report on Jason Yi looks good. Why don’t you bring him in. Let’s see what he’s willing to do.”
* * *
Meeting Jason for the first time, Woodbury was pleased with what he saw. Jason was exactly the image needed for the assignment. He had an aura of professionalism and confidence about him, but not arrogance. Above average in height for a Chinese man, his shoulders were broad and straight, his arms muscular but not massive. His torso narrowed at the hips and he was slightly bow-legged, as were most natural athletes. He had a round yet masculine face with a hint of tan to his golden complexion, probably indicative of an enjoyment for the outdoors when he could find the time. His thick black hair fell back from his high forehead and curved slightly where the ends touched the top of his shirt collar. He was direct in his eye contact yet not threatening, and his smile was broad and charming.
After shaking hands, Woodbury gestured for Jason to sit in one of the two tufted leather armchairs positioned in front of his massive, mahogany leather-top desk. Senator Boyle sat down on the burgundy sofa along the wood-paneled side wall.
“As you may know, Jason,” Woodbury began, “one serious problem in trade relations between the United States and China is the large quantities of counterfeit products manufactured there. Foreign businesses are hesitant to invest in joint trade ventures with China because of the counterfeiting.”
He waited for Jason’s response.
Jason merely nodded. He was very much aware of China’s problem with counterfeiting. He had written several reports on the subject for Senator Boyle.
Woodbury continued. “The committee has agreed to appropriate funds for a judicial training program in China if—and that’s a big if, son—the US is allowed to assist in uncovering counterfeiting rings by sending in specially trained Chinese/American agents to serve for a short time as local officials in China’s provincial governments.”
Jason tried to stifle a chuckle as he replied, “I don’t mean to be rude, sir, but the Communist Party would never open up enough to allow Americans into official areas where they could have access to classified government information, even for a short period of time.”
Woodbury cleared his throat before responding. “I appreciate your candor, Jason, but I think you’d be surprised at what the Chinese government is willing to do under the circumstances—especially in seeking permanent normal trade status in the WTO, and with their bid for the 2008 Olympics on the line. The United States and China are working together to crack down on counterfeiting and local corruption. This is important to the United States because many American companies already established in China are losing large sums of money to counterfeit products. Other businesses are hesitant to sink money into opening up mainland markets because they know it’s a sure bet they’ll end up competing against knock-offs of their own products. Besides American investment losses, China is losing out on billions of foreign capital. And, as I said before, they know if they don’t get this counterfeiting mess under control it could seriously jeopardize their trade status and their bid for the Olympics. Truth be told, they’re having a devil of a time cleaning up this mess on their own.”
“The counterfeiters are paying large sums of money to local Chinese officials to look the other way, making it difficult if not impossible to catch them,” Boyle added.
Woodbury continued. “Given permanent normal trade status, China’s judges will have to familiarize themselves with and adhere to the rule of law. You’re probably aware of this, Jason, but judges are a relatively new concept in the Chinese legal system. Prior to 1979 there were only a handful of them throughout China. After the Cultural Revolution, there was such a shortage of judges that local officials were appointed whether they had any legal training or not. This resulted in inconsistencies in the interpretation of the laws and gave too much power to local officials. It became a breeding ground for corruption. Of course, now there are several thousand judges throughout China, and they must be educated and pass a national judicial exam. Nevertheless, the problem still exists.”
“I’m aware of China’s history, sir,” Jason replied with a smile, wondering where the conversation was going. He’d assumed he had been called into the meeting in Trenton Woodbury’s office to discuss some research he had done recently on China’s trade relations.
“The law must be supreme, Jason,” Boyle went on. “That’s the rule of law. You know it, the World Trade Organization requires it, and China will have to abide by it if they want to succeed in international trade relations. The way things are right now, if someone is accused of a crime—even if he’s guilty—his family, friends, and business associates would say or do anything to get him off. And the judges are nearly as bad, lining their own pockets. The United States and other foreign businesses are just not willing to go in and invest billions of dollars in a country where the judicial system doesn’t hold to the law!”
Jason knew this was a sore subject with Boyle. As far as he was concerned, the United States would be throwing good money after bad in funding a judicial training program for China’s judges.
Woodbury continued. “Jason, China knows their judicial system has problems. They want to succeed in the WTO, and they are willing to embrace the concept of the rule of law. That’s a big change for them and they know it’s going to take time and effort on everyone’s part. That’s why we’re willing to help. And believe me, China wants our help. This WTO judicial training program, although primarily funded by the United States, is sanctioned by China’s Supreme People’s Court and the Ministry of Education. As for us sending in agents to pose as local officials, only China’s president and a few of the highest officials will know about the project.”
“Sir, I’m sure you recognize the danger in that. If a foreign agent were to be caught, it’s likely he or she would be executed before word could reach those high-level officials,” Jason said, concerned for the safety of the agents who would be risking their lives.
“Your concern is valid, Jason. I assure you, we are aware of the dangers,” Woodbury responded.
“Well, that’s at least a first step,” Jason replied and then paused before going on. “Sir, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this with you and Senator Boyle, but exactly how is it you would like me to help in this project?”
The room fell silent.
“I would be happy to put together a report on what WTO information the agents would need to know,” Jason added. “Details on Chinese law . . .” He paused, surprised that neither Woodbury nor Boyle seemed to be forthcoming with a response. The two of them exchanged looks as if expecting the other one to answer.
Woodbury cleared his throat again. “Jason,” he responded, “we would like to send you as one of those agents.”
Again, the room fell silent.
“Well, you certainly are straightforward,” Jason laughed, hoping to hide his sudden uneasiness. This was not at all what he had expected, which annoyed him because he prided himself on recognizing hidden agendas. He had completely miscalculated the purpose of the meeting. He glanced over at Boyle as if to say, Why wasn’t I given a heads-up on this? but Boyle was now engrossed in a folder he had open in his lap. He took off his reading glasses and looked up as Jason began to speak.
“Why me?” Jason said with total seriousness.
“For the very reasons you mentioned. You know WTO procedures, and you’re familiar with Chinese law and international trade.” Woodbury then laughed. “And I guess it doesn’t hurt that you’re of Chinese ancestry and fluent in the language.”
“I see. I look and sound the part,” Jason responded with a hint of sarcasm. “That’s not a lot to go on when your life is on the line in a Communist country.”
Jason let a few moments pass and then shook his head, “I’m honored, sir, but I’m not trained in undercover work.”
“I understand, Jason. And, truth be told, that’s probably an advantage,” he added with a slight chuckle. With complete seriousness, he continued. “I’d personally see to it that you were well-trained and well-compensated.” He stressed the word well both times.
Boyle looked up. He knew the money angle Woodbury had presented wouldn’t be enough to get Jason to accept the assignment. “Jason, you would be doing a great service for America, the WTO, and more importantly, China.”
Jason thought for a moment before responding. “If I were to do this . . . and that’s a big if, sir—we can work out the numbers later. Right now, I want to know what I would have to do over there and what protection the United States would provide for me.”
Woodbury nodded. “Fair enough. In short, we would send you someplace in China where you would pose as an administrative judge. The exact province would be determined by the amount of suspected corruption among local officials—possibly Guangzhou in Guangdong Province. A lot of counterfeiting factories are set up there because of the close proximity to shipping ports. Furthermore, you would attend the WTO judicial training program in Beijing for approximately seven weeks. In your capacity as a judge we want you to interact with other judges, learn from them, and scope out fraudulent activities they may be involved in or know about. In other words, blend in and absorb information. There would be about forty judges total, coming from all over China. As you know, Jason, most of China’s judges are young like yourself so you should have no trouble blending in and making friends.”
“And the protection?” Jason asked again.
“For your own sake, son, the less you have the better.”
“You mean NOC—non-official cover? That would mean no diplomatic protection.” Jason could feel little beads of sweat beginning to form under his shirt collar. “The last thing I need is to be caught spying in an Asian communist country and have the United States turn their back on me.”
“Don’t get caught,” Boyle tried to interject some humor, thinking a little levity would lessen the tension now developing in the room. Woodbury’s steely glance let Boyle know his humor was not appropriate or appreciated.
“Jason, if we sent you under official cover, we would have to assign you a position through the US Embassy. That puts you too far removed from local Chinese officials and totally defeats the purpose of the program. Non-official cover is the only way to go here.”
“So, you’re going to hang me out there without any protection whatsoever?” Jason couldn’t believe what they were asking of him.
“Definitely not,” Woodbury replied. “You’ll have the expertise of the Central Intelligence Agency behind you in establishing your identity there and in creating the necessary background documentation for your cover. You’ll be given new identification documents under your Chinese name, with People’s Republic of China papers including a Chinese passport, residence card, bank account, a law degree from a top Chinese university, and national exam results for your judicial certification. The paper trail will be thorough, I assure you.”
Jason was still unsure about whether he wanted to get involved.
“What about other agents? Will there be others I can contact over there?” he asked.
“You’ll be the first of five NOC operatives, maybe more—we don’t know at this point. But to answer your question, no, you’ll have no knowledge of or contact with any of the other agents. You won’t even know where they’re located. For your safety, son, it is best that way.” Woodbury tried to sound reassuring.
Boyle wanted to redeem himself from his earlier humorless remark. So, he mustered up all the sincerity he could. “Jason, whether I like it or not, Congress is going to appropriate the funds for this program. It’s pretty much a done deal. So, if we’re going to spend the money, we need to do it right. I recommended you because I knew you were trustworthy and would see that the job got done. We need this to be a success. Nipping this counterfeiting problem in the bud is a major step in the right direction for China . . . and the United States.”
Jason considered Boyle’s words.
“How long would I have to stay over there?” he asked.
Woodbury shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t say for sure. Possibly a year. These organized corruption networks run along cultural, linguistic, and in some cases strong family lines. They will be difficult to penetrate even for a native speaker.”
Jason thought about the improbability of penetrating such an organization as well as the strong possibility that if he were caught, he would be killed.
“Tell me about the training,” he asked.
Boyle answered. “The training is excellent, and it is very thorough, Jason. First of all, you’ll spend six months in special Foreign Service training learning how to operate under a false identity and how to blend in with your surroundings. They’ll teach you what to do if your cover is compromised—like what signs to look for and what to do if you’re being followed, or if your rooms are monitored, what to listen and watch for, et cetera, et cetera. And driving skills—how to throw off a tail, ram another car to disable it if necessary, that sort of thing. Of course, self-defense, which I understand you are already skilled in.”
Jason had to admit he was intrigued. And the more he thought about spending time in the country of his roots, despite the danger, the more he felt it was what he needed to do.
“Is that everything?” Jason asked.
“Son, that’s only the beginning,” Woodbury said with a smile.
* * *
Six months later, Jason completed the specialized training and signed the Foreign Service documents. They gave him new identification papers including a Chinese passport using his real name, Yi Jichun, with instructions that he was to tell no one, not even his family, about the assignment. Jason recalled the warning from the Foreign Service director: “Being undercover is a lie and you have to live it. It is your only protection. From here on, use the name Yi Jichun as a constant reminder of your cover. Never let your guard down, not for a moment. Doing so could cost you your life. And don’t overlook your surveillance detection procedures. If you are being watched and you compromise your cover, you may not get out alive. With only Communist Chinese identification papers on you, Mr. Yi Jichun, the United States could have a heck of a time getting you back!”

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About DM Coffman

DM Coffman specializes in clean fiction quick read suspense thrillers, many of which are factually based on strange experiences while living in China. Truths are woven throughout her books. But it's up to the reader to figure out where truth ends and DM's wild imagination begins.

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