Thursday, 11 April 2019 11:43

China slams Australia over 'double standards' in cyber security Featured

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Lu Kang addressing the media during a regular press conference in Beijing on Wednesday. Lu Kang addressing the media during a regular press conference in Beijing on Wednesday. Courtesy Chinese Foreign Ministry

China has taken a swipe at Australia over the country's encryption law, saying it was "baffling" how Canberra could on the one hand claim that other countries posed security threats, while on the other hand engage in acts that endangered the cyber security of other nations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang made the statement in response to a question during a daily press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.

The query touched on the fact that many technology firms, including Google, Apple and Amazon, had voiced serious concerns about the encryption law, adding:

"Do you have any comments? Earlier, the Australian side said that they didn't want anyone in their communications networks that have an obligation to another government, and banned Huawei from its 5G networks on this ground. Do you think Australia is applying [a] double standard here?"

In response, Lu said: "China is closely following the relevant move. Forcing companies to install backdoors through legislation means protecting one's own security and interests at the expense of other countries' security and their people's privacy.

The Australian encryption law, officially known as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018, was passed on 6 December.

"Such practice will severely impact the business environment and international cooperation in the telecommunications industry. As we have seen, those in the industry have raised serious concerns," Lu added.

For nearly two years, the US has been pushing countries it considers allies to avoid using equipment from Chinese companies, Huawei foremost, in 5G networks. But Washington has produced no proof to back up its claims that these products could be used to spy for China.

Only Australia and New Zealand have fallen in line with Washington's dictates, but Wellington has indicated that the initial refusal for telco Spark to use Huawei gear is not the end of the matter. That stance was reiterated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a one-day China visit in April. Huawei sued the US on 7 March, seeking to be reinstated as a telco supplier in the country.

On Wednesday, Spark Corporate Relations lead Andrew Pirie told iTWire that the company was still working through what possible mitigations it might be able to provide to address the concerns raised by the General Communications Security Bureau, the country's main spy agency, over its use of Huawei 5G equipment.

Said Lu: "It is baffling how the country concerned could on the one hand whip up 'security threats' posed by other countries or companies with trumped-up charges under the facade of cyber security and engage in acts that endanger cyber security themselves on the other. I wonder what the Australian Government will say about this just as you do.

He said China attached "high importance to, and is committed to, safeguarding cyber security".

"We will continue to take an active part in international co-operation in this field and work with all sides for a peaceful, secure, open, cooperative and orderly cyber space. At the same time, China again urges relevant countries to provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for companies of all countries, including China," Lu said.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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