More details have started to surface about Beijing’s abrupt sacking of a senior executive at a state-owned shipbuilding behemoth, who was at the helm of the retrofitting and construction of the People’s Liberation Army’s aircraft carriers.

China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC) general manager Sun Bo was suspended from his job in June, right after the nation’s first homemade carrier, known only as “Type 001A” cast off for her maiden sail.

Rumors started to swirl that Sun was sacked after it came to light that he allegedly passed secrets to US agents, but state media have hinted that he was just another cadre who fell in Beijing’s war on graft.

Asia Times also reported in mid-year that Sun could have been feeding the CIA with Chinese carrier intel.

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier seen conducting a previous drill in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters
China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning is seen in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters
The Type 001A carrier is seen sailing out of the Dalian Shipyard on Sunday morning. Photo: Weibo
China’s second carrier ‘Type 001A’ emerges for test-runs from Dalian Shipyard in May. Photo: Weibo

This week, papers including the South China Morning Post cited sources as saying that Sun, having been interrogated by both graft-busters and national security investigators, may be given life or even the death penalty for treason.

Some reports say Sun only divulged classified information about the Liaoning, a Soviet hull made in the early 1990s that was refurbished by CSIC at its Dalian Shipyard before being commissioned in 2012.

But it’s also alleged that Sun could have leaked intel about the second carrier (Type 001A) built by CSIC in Dalian, along with design and specification information on China’s future nuclear vessels.

Sun was in charge of CSIC’s aircraft carrier projects for more than a decade.

It is unclear what level of confidential information about the Liaoning Sun may have given to foreign intelligence agents, but sources told the SCMP he “could even face the death penalty” or “at least a suspended death sentence”, depending on how much Beijing believes that the Pentagon knows about the PLA carriers.

But it is unclear when Sun will learn about his fate, given the secretive nature of China’s prosecution of disgraced officials.

CSIC plays a key role in developing and building naval vessels, including nuclear and conventional submarines, as well as carriers.

Read moreDisgraced manager at shipbuilding juggernaut allegedly ‘sold Chinese carrier intel to CIA’