Former CIA Officer, Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, has been arrested on charges of selling U.S. secrets to China. Mr. Yuk Ching (67) is accused of revealing classified national defense information to Chinese Intelligence officials. If convicted, he will face a life imprisonment.

Mr. Ma was arrested on Friday and charged, said the US justice department. It is the latest espionage arrest at a time of growing tension between Washington and Beijing.

The retired CIA officer is a naturalized US citizen born in Hong Kong, began working for the CIA in 1982.

Prosecutors said he left the CIA seven years later and worked in the Chinese city of Shanghai before moving to Hawaii in 2001.

Court documents shows he is charged with violating U.S. espionage laws. Prosecutors said he joined the CIA in 1967 then served as a CIA officer until he retired from the agency in 1989. For part of that time he was assigned to work overseas in the East-Asia and Pacific region.

Twelve years after he retired, prosecutors said Monday that Ma met with at least five officers of China’s Ministry of State Security in a Hong Kong hotel room, where he “disclosed a substantial amount of highly classified national defense information,” including facts about the CIA’s internal organization, methods for communicating covertly, and the identities of CIA officers and human assets.

Part of their meeting in Hong Kong was recorded on videotape and shows Mr. Ma counting $50,000 (£38,000) in cash for the secrets he shared, the statement said.

While living in Hawaii, court documents say, he then sought work with the FBI to gain access to classified US government information once again to pass on to China.

He was hired by the FBI’s Honolulu office in 2004 as a contract linguist and is accused of stealing documents marked secret.

When the FBI became aware of Ma’s activities, prosecutors said, an undercover FBI employee arranged a meeting, posing a representative of the Chinese government. The undercover operative claimed to be conducting an investigation “into how Ma had been treated, including the amount he had been compensated,” court documents said.

A video recording showed Ma counting $2,000 in cash provided by the undercover operative, who said it was to acknowledge his work on behalf of China. Investigators said Ma, who was born in Hong Kong, explained that he “wanted ‘the motherland’ to succeed” and admitted that he provided classified information to the Ministry of State Security and continued to work with some of its same representatives who were at the 2001 meeting.

It remains unclear why it took so long to arrest Mr. Ma.

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