China’s Cybersecurity Law a ‘Loaded Weapon’, Senior US Official Says - Report

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The comments come as Washington seeks to push China out of Europe’s emerging 5G network market. The European Commission doesn’t seem to buy the allegations, though.

China's cybersecurity law allows the Chinese government to force domestic tech companies to spy on Beijing's behalf and therefore is a threat to the Western world, a senior US official said in an interview for Euractiv.

"The Chinese government isn't playing hide the ball on the issue of cyber espionage," the anonymous official said on the sidelines of Barcelona's Mobile World Congress. "Their cybersecurity law obliges Chinese companies to collaborate with the Communist government on espionage campaigns."

"The Chinese cybersecurity law allows the government to force Chinese companies to spy on their behalf," the US official said. "We've heard people ask us ‘Where's the smoking gun?' but the better question is ‘Why would we stand in front of a loaded weapon?'"

However, the official's assessment is dubious, because the legislation explicitly speaks about "safeguarding national security" and "investigating criminal activities."

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According to Euractiv, the legislation forces Chinese tech companies to hand over data to national security and law enforcement agencies should such a need arise during an investigation.

By comparison, Washington's 2018 Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act) allows American law enforcement agencies demand data from US-based tech companies regardless of whether said data is stored on US soil or overseas.

The US official's comments come as China seeks to secure its place in Europe's 5G communication network market. US pressure has already pushed Chinese companies away from the US and Australia, the Euractiv report notes, and now Washington seeks to achieve the same goal in Europe.

In particular, Washington accused Chinese tech company Huawei of installing backdoors in its network hardware on behalf of the Chinese government — something that the company's top officials have denied repeatedly.

"I still remember when Ren Zhengfei, CEO and founder of Huawei, spoke for the first time to Western media. He responded clearly to these concerns. Zhengfei said that Huawei would never provide data to the Chinese authorities," Vincent Pang, president of Huawei's Western European Region, told Euractiv.

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According to Pang, "[Zhengfei] said that if the Chinese government were to force Huawei to hand over data, then he would shut down the company."

However, Euractiv cites rumors coming from EU higher-ups that the bloc is determined not to make any definitive decisions regarding Huawei or other Chinese companies until unambiguous evidence of China's wrongdoings is presented by the US.

"Nobody is helped by premature decisions based on partial facts," Mariya Gabriel, European Commission digital chief, said on 25 February, according to the report.

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