China's 57-year-old vice minister of state security has been the subject of much discussion in America's conservative circles, with the speculation even reaching Chinese social media threads as Beijing's top spy catcher was not seen or photographed for several weeks.
While the Chinese government has yet to publicly address the stories about his alleged defection, its embassy in Washington informed Newsweek on Wednesday that the country's senior counterintelligence official had attended a cross-regional security dialogue earlier in the day.
According to minutes released by the Communist Party's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, Dong was among five Chinese officials who attended the 16th meeting of the Security Council Secretaries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Member States on June 23.
A picture of the meeting, which they attended via video link, showed Dong sitting on the far right, while Chinese Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi, in the center, led the talks.
The spymaster's first public appearance this month would appear to finally put to rest rumors about his alleged defection to the U.S.—first reported by conservative political blog RedState on June 4.
Subsequent reports, coupled with analyses by China specialists and a U.S.-based Chinese defector, further fueled the speculation, which continued as Dong's precise whereabouts remained unknown.
On Tuesday, separate U.S. government sources denied rumors that Dong had handed himself over to American intelligence officials. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the first told Newsweek the stories "are not accurate," while the second said the reports were "absolutely untrue."
The exact origins of the Dong Jingwei rumors remain unknown, but they come as the Chinese leadership prepares to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Communist Part of China on July 1.
According to the reports by RedState, which cited unnamed sources within the intelligence community, Dong was said to have defected in February and supposedly offered damaging evidence pertaining to the alleged human-made origins of COVID-19 in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, among other subject matters.
Dong did not speak during the SCO dialogue on Wednesday, according to the publicly available meeting notes. Zhao, the public security minister, addressed the other secretaries of Eurasian security alliance—otherwise known as the Shanghai Pact.
Zhao, who is also the deputy of the party's politics and law commission, praised what he called the "Shanghai Spirit," which has allowed the SCO to engage in "comprehensive cooperation" and "sustainable security."
"At present, changes in the international environment are intertwined with a once-in-a-century pandemic," he said. "In the face of new threats and challenges to regional security, all parties must work together in order to jointly respond to the various challenges and maintain regional security."
Zhao's five suggestions for the SCO included elevating the Shanghai Pact's role in maintaining regional security. The group should also promote reconciliation in the Middle East as well as the orderly withdrawal of foreign military forces from Afghanistan, he said.
This needed to be done "in a responsible matter" to prevent "terrorist forces from taking advantage of the chaos," he told the alliance whose permanent member states include Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Zhao urged the SCO to "resolutely resist the malign practices of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries" and the "infringing of the sovereignty of other countries."
The meeting minutes said Zhao was joined at the dialogue by his deputy, Du Hangwei, while Dong was the only representative from the Ministry of State Security.