Chinese Espionage at Meiringen Military Airfield: The Rössli Hotelier Spy Scandal Uncovered

2024-04-16 18:36:30

Published16. April 2024, 8:36 p.m

Meiringen BE: Did the Chinese Rössli hotelier spy on the military airfield?

As early as 2023, following a police operation, there were rumors of Chinese espionage at Meiringen military airfield. Now, following an RTS report, the clues are increasing.

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  • The Hotel Rössli, acquired by a Chinese family in 2018, was the focus of a police operation in July 2023.

  • The hotel’s location offers a clear view of the Meiringen military airfield, which fuels speculation regarding possible espionage activities.

  • Despite reporting and investigations, much remained unexplained; the former owner can no longer be found and the hotel remains closed.

Was the Hotel Rössli in Unterbach run by a Chinese spy to carry out military espionage? What is clear is that there was a police operation in the inn on July 26, 2023 – and plainclothes officers carried out a house search. There have also been arrests, as reported by the “Tages-Anzeiger”, among others.

According to a report by Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS), new details regarding the Rössli are now coming to light – the hotel that a Chinese family acquired in 2018 and which, in addition to its rustic charm, has a clear view of the airfield at the Meiringen military airfield. The airfield serves as an operating location for the Swiss Air Force’s F-35 fighter jets, which have been targeted by Chinese agents for years.

Police gave no further information

In the summer of 2023, the police did not comment on the exact background to the operation: “We can confirm that an intervention by the Bern cantonal police took place on July 26, 2023. One person was temporarily arrested during this intervention. A second person was also taken to a police station for further investigation. Both were released following the investigation was completed.”

Officially, the Rössli affair came to an end with court rulings once morest the Chinese parents and their alleged son and former Rössli owner John*: They received suspended sentences and a fine of several thousand francs because they were staying in Switzerland illegally and the hotel without permit or work permit.

China is targeting US military technology

Chinese espionage attempts in the USA are repeatedly uncovered. The people in question often pose as tourists or business people. China is doing everything it can to get more information regarding its arch-rival’s military technology.

But back to the RTS report: A team from the program “Mise au Point” went to the ominous inn – and found itself in front of closed doors. “The hotel is closed,” it says on a note on the door. There was no trace of the owner. He also apparently deleted his social media accounts. Onlookers are apparently no longer welcome since the case became known: the RTS team had to leave the Rössli site at the behest of military police while they were carrying out their research. There is no trace of John.

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In 2018, John bought the horse for 800,000 francs. Apparently he was only able to stay in Switzerland because he had enrolled at the Swiss hotel management school SHMS. The school is mainly attended by children from wealthy Asian families. The RTS reporters found a photo of John in a SHMS school yearbook: The Chinese man, who was born in 1996, is photographed in a suit and tie, with his hair combed back.

RTS might not reach John by phone for comment. According to the residents’ control office in Meiringen, he left the community in the summer of 2023 without a known destination. The Swiss intelligence service also refused to comment. RTS’s letters to the Chinese Embassy also went unanswered.

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