Chinese accidentally bought 4 books of military secrets for less than $1

Chinese army

Photo: Associated Press

A fan of China's military history has made an alarming discovery after picking up four discarded books at a recycling station in his neighborhood for less than $1. Those books were secret military documents, reports the "AP" agency. 

China's Ministry of National Security told the story in a social media post on Thursday, praising the pensioner who immediately called to report the incident. The pensioner was identified only by his last name, Zhang, and it was not revealed what the documents were. 

"Mr. Zhang thought he had 'bought' the country's military secrets and brought them home. But if someone with ulterior motives were to buy them, there would be unimaginable consequences," the post says. 

The post, which was posted on at least two popular news sites in China, was the latest in a series of posts by China's Ministry of National Security, which is trying to attract audiences with dramatic stories. Some are told in comic book style.

The campaign appears to be designed to raise awareness of the importance of national security at a time when tensions with the US are rising. 

The post says Zhang, a former employee of a state-owned company, likes to collect military newspapers and periodicals. It tells how he found two bags of new books at the recycling station and paid 6 yuan (less than $1) for four books. 

National security agents rushed to the station after Zhang reported what had happened, the post said. After an investigation, they discovered that two military personnel engaged in shredding more than 200 books, instead of doing so, decided to sell them to a recycling center as scrap paper – a total of 30 kilograms – for about 20 yuan ( $2.75). 

Agents seized the books and the army is dealing with the case. 

China's security agencies as well as the Chinese legal system often make it difficult to determine what is considered a state secret. 

Chinese and foreign consultancies operating domestically are being investigated for possessing or sharing information about the economy, in what appears to be a significant expansion of the definition of state secrets in China.