‘Chinese property’ located less than 328 feet from F-35 airbase

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Back in 2019, during a parliamentary hearing, Admiral Bernard-Antoine Morio de l’Isle, the Commander of the Submarine Forces and Strategic Ocean Forces [ALFOST], noted an escalating presence of foreign entities around the four French Navy transmission centers [CTM], which ensure constant communication with nuclear submarines at sea. 

Photo credit: Royal Navy

Fast forward a little over a year, Huawei’s proposed plan to establish a factory in Brumath [Bas-Rhin], focused on technological solutions for mobile networks, drew significant attention. The proximity to several military sites dedicated to intelligence and electronic warfare sparked a flurry of questions and concerns.

1400,000 hectares in the US

This concern isn’t isolated to France. In the U.S., Chinese investors are eyeing farmland close to military bases. So far, they have snapped up 140,000 hectares, which might just be 1% of all foreign-owned land, but the locations of these plots are raising eyebrows. 

It’s not the amount that’s unsettling U.S. officials; it’s “the proximity of these lands to military bases and other critical national security sites.” 

Adding to this, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States [CFIUS] is ringing alarm bells. Recently, the Biden administration ordered MineOne, a China-linked company, to resell its property in Wyoming near Warren Air Force Base, home to the Minuteman III strategic missiles.

The Swiss estates

Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Sommers

Is Switzerland also grappling with China’s interest in properties near military installations? A detailed piece in the Wall Street Journal highlights this concern, focusing on the scenic Hotel Rössli, which is situated less than a hundred meters [328 ft] from Meiringen Air Base—soon to host F-35A fighter-bombers in 2028. 

Back in 2018, the Wang family from China purchased this hotel for one million euros. Notably, this acquisition happened before Switzerland announced its plans to deploy the F-35A. 

The American newspaper uncovered several unsettling details about the Wang family. Wang Jin, the son of a diplomat stationed in Germany during the 1960s, didn’t seem very invested in the hotel business, which he appeared to be unfamiliar with. This is particularly odd given the substantial investment in renovating the Hotel Rössli. While Wang Jin spoke proficient German, his wife, Lin Jing, did not share this language skill.

Photo by Ole Andreas Vekve

The son of the Wang family

Regarding their son Dawei, who was initially set to attend a prestigious hospitality school in Montreux, he lacked even the basic skills to make a proper Swiss café au lait, which involves heating the milk first before adding coffee. 

Interestingly, an investigation by Radio Télévision Suisse [RTS] offers a different narrative: It was actually  the son, Dawei, who purchased the hotel under his own name. 

Photo credit: Google Map

Over time, the most senior employees at the restaurant resigned, frustrated by its decline and annoyed at having to prepare meals using Chinese products and Mandarin instructions, according to a Wall Street Journal report. By 2020, “Chinese workers,” some of whom lacked residence permits, started replacing the local staff. 

Additionally, struggling to adapt to the region’s climate, the Wang family frequently returns to China, even during the peak tourist season.

Warning from the US

Photo credit: Google Map

This carousel may spin for quite some time. Following Bern’s decision to purchase 36 F-35As, American intelligence took a keen interest in the security of Swiss bases. The Rössli Hotel case became particularly intriguing. 

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the United States urged Switzerland to enhance the security of the Meiringen base, which remained easily accessible, especially to “observers.” Essentially, this meant that the Wang family had to vacate the premises. Initially, the Federal Intelligence Service [SRC] did not take the warnings about the Wangs seriously. However, in July 2023, the cantonal police finally conducted a raid on the hotel. 

The couple was arrested and later fined for “violations of Swiss hotel industry law.” This incident prompted them to return to Beijing permanently, where they now reside in a very upscale neighborhood. Their son disappeared without a trace.

Photo by James Deboer

Rössli Hotel for sale

Currently, the Rössli Hotel is on the market for 1.8 million Swiss francs. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal reports that the only interested buyer so far is the Swiss Army. 

Were Wang spies? Bern authorities have found no evidence to suggest this. “In Switzerland, it’s quite  common to get very close to military airfields, with roads even crossing the runways. This is very different from the situation in the United States and other Western countries, where military airfields are heavily protected and inaccessible to the public. The Chinese government likely noticed this,” explains Ralph Weber, a professor at the University of Basel and specialist in Chinese affairs, to RTS.

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