Student at Leysin, he is suspected of being a Chinese spy

A student from Leysin suspected of being a Chinese spy

Published today at 12:05 p.m.

July 26, 2023. In the canton of Bern, the Rössli Hotel in Unterbach is the scene of a police operation amid suspicions of espionage. An affair revealed at the time by the “Tages-Anzeiger”. The owner of the establishment, who operates it with his parents, originally from Beijing, is a student at a hotel school in Leysin. But he would also be an agent of the Chinese secret services, reports RTS.

The hotel, purchased by David W.* in 2018, is located off the tourist trail and very close to the Meiringen military airport. Planes pass within 50 meters of the establishment and the rooms have a direct view of the take-off runway, making it a strategic location for an intelligence operation.

Meiringen airport is unique in that it must accommodate American F35 fighter planes from 2027. The Swiss army has ordered 36 examples. These jets, which are a Source of concern for China, carried out several test flights there during 2018, according to RTS.

Beijing, for its part, is seeking information on these F35s. Several espionage attempts have already been detected in the United States, with spies posing as tourists or businessmen. But the police do not give details on the Swiss case. She confirms that an intervention took place in July 2023 and that the two people provisionally arrested were released following the investigations.

There is no mention of espionage. Officially, David W. and his parents were convicted of illegal stay in Switzerland, lack of a work permit and operating a hotel-restaurant without a license.

“A little discreet, but not shy”

The “Mise au point” investigation reveals that the young Chinese owner was able to reside in Switzerland thanks to his registration at the Swiss Hotel Management School in Leysin, a school attended by students from wealthy families and particularly from Asian countries.

Questioned by RTS, Rodrigo Navarro, one of his friends and fellow students, testified: “David* was one of my study friends. She’s a nice person, a little discreet, but not shy. […] He told me that his parents lived in China and certainly not that they spoke German.” The former owner explains, however, that the young man’s parents, who managed the establishment on a daily basis, spoke German very well. David would also have kept the purchase of this hotel a secret during his studies.

According to the control of the inhabitants of the Bernese municipality, David left in 2023 for an unknown destination. Before that, he traveled back and forth between Meiringen, Leysin and China. His parents were never registered with the residents’ control. And since the police operation in July 2023, Rodrigo has not had any news from his friend, who stopped answering the phone.

Contacted by RTS, the Confederation Intelligence Service (SRC) did not wish to respond to this matter. The Chinese authorities, via the embassy, ​​have not spoken either.

* Name known to the RTS editorial staff

Laura Manent is a journalist in the digital unit of Tamedia. A graduate in international relations, human development and sustainability, she also holds a master’s degree from the Academy of Journalism and Media at the University of Neuchâtel. She has notably worked for RTS and La Région Nord Vaudois.More informations

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