(Minghui.org) In July 2020, Taichung City of Taiwan replaced surveillance cameras in underground passageways after some residents noticed that the cameras were made in China. The cameras that had been installed in Taichung were manufactured by Hikvision, a state-owned Chinese company that supplies video surveillance equipment for civilian and military purposes. The company is under sanctions from the U.S. government for its involvement in human rights abuses of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Taiwan's concern was not unfounded. China has actively promoted its digital surveillance technology to “developing countries” with projects like smart city and “digital silk road” using surveillance cameras provided by Hikvision. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been using this technology as a means to strengthen its authoritarian rule and undermining the freedom of its own citizens, both in real life and on the Internet.
According to the latest Freedom on the Net report by Freedom House, China has been ranked the world's worst abuser of internet freedom in the past six consecutive years. Despite the pandemic, the Chinese government has intensified internet controls and systematic surveillance in the past year. “New evidence emerged of Chinese technology companies systematically aiding government surveillance,” the report says.
The recently leaked database from China's Zhenhua Data Information Technology includes information of at least 2.4 million people around the world in virtually every country. Among them are politicians, members of royal families, celebrities and military figures, etc. The information is believed to be collected for China's military and intelligence agencies.
The existence of such a database comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with communist tactics. U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger said, “Assembling dossiers has always been a feature of Leninist regimes. The material is used now, as before, to influence and intimidate, reward and blackmail, flatter and humiliate, divide and conquer.”
Chinese Intelligence Act requires all Chinese companies to comply with any legal requests from state agencies to hand over data they have on their servers. Chinese companies operate outside of China are no exception.
Network security firm Palo Alto Networks discovered that Baidu Maps and Baidu Search Box, two Android apps by China's search giant Baidu, collected sensitive user information without users' knowledge, thus compromising their online security. Google recently removed the two apps upon the findings.
Tencent, the parent company of WeChat, is also the world's largest video game publisher. It has invested in 16 game companies outside China, including Fortnite Studio and Riot Games. Some analysts believe that the information collected from game players, such as user name, location, voice samples, and payment information, can potentially pose more security threats to the public than those collected from WeChat users. Also the plug-ins of video game software can be used by CCP intelligence agencies to download and upload files from users' computers.
Moreover, the CCP is using the United Nations to expand its surveillance reach. According to memorandums signed by U.N.'s Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Chinese government, China will set up a U.N. Global Geospatial Center in Deqing County of Zhejiang province, and an International Research Center of Big Data in Hangzhou to facilitate the implementation of the U.N.'s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In an article published in Wall Street Journal on October 7, 2020, titled “China Uses the U.N. To Expand Its Surveillance Reach,” author Claudia Rosett wrote, “Mr. Xi’s promised U.N.-China geospatial and big-data advanced would enable for detailed mapping of every thing from topography and infrastructure to human conduct, throughout time and across the globe. China beneath its personal steam is already accumulating and in some instances pilfering troves of information world-wide. However the U.N. badge of legitimacy would make it simpler for Beijing to save flows of information from member states, affect U.N. requirements and norms for such information assortment, form the outcomes, feed them into the U.N. system—and project the Chinese language Communist Occasion’s techno-tyranny worldwide.”
Democrat Senator Mark Warner, a former telecom executive, posted on twitter, “Chinese leaders aim to influence the whole suite of next-generation technology, including A.I. and facial recognition. Communist Party Leaders are developing a model of technological governance that should worry all of us.”
To counter China's global ambition, the U.S. government is leading the effort to address the threat of CCP in cyberspace. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on April 29, 2020, that the U.S. Department of State will begin requiring a “clean path” for all 5G network traffic between U.S. Diplomatic facilities and the United States. “We will keep doing all we can to keep our critical data and our networks safe from the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said.
On August 4, 2020, Pompeo announced the expansion of the Clean Path initiative to Clean Network to ensure data traveling on 5G networks into U.S. diplomatic facilities overseas and within the United States is secure according to internationally accepted digital trust standards. By November, Clean Network grew to 52 country members, representing two-thirds of the global economic output. He urged allies and partners in both governments and private sectors around the world to join the effort to secure data from the CCP.
The European Commission, together with EU member states, released the 5G Cybersecurity Toolbox that defines the criteria and gives clear measures to avoid the use of “high-risk” suppliers in the network. Twenty-seven NATO members have committed to be “Clean Countries” by allowing only trusted vendors in their 5G networks. During a visit to eight European countries, U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach said, “Countries and companies now understand that the central issue is not about technology, but trust.”