Chinese geolocation device found in UK government car: report

Chinese geolocation device found in UK government car: report

A Chinese tracking device was reportedly discovered in a UK government vehicle intended for use by senior officials, including cabinet ministers, raising further concerns about Chinese espionage in the UK.

According to a report by I Newspaper, government cars have been “surgically dismantled down to the last screw” by intelligence officials after at least one Chinese SIM card with the ability to transmit location data was found hidden in a car used by senior politicians and diplomats.

A serving member of British Intelligence told the newspaper: “It [the tracking SIMs] gives the possibility to survey the government over a period of months and years, constantly archiving movements and constantly building a rich picture of activities.

“You can do it slowly and methodically over a very, very long time. That is the weak point.”

The SIM card was reportedly placed in a sealed part of the vehicle imported from a supplier in China. The paper noted that automakers are reluctant to open such components as doing so would void the warranty and therefore the geolocation device would go undetected.

A former GCHQ analyst told the newspaper that this is unlikely to be a targeted operation focused on a single politician, but rather represents a comprehensive data-mining approach by the Chinese Communist Party.

“It’s more about quantity than anything specific,” said the former GCHQ analyst. “The goal is to install trackers in as many cars as possible and then locate points of interest.”

“If you step back a bit and say what cars are parked in front of GCHQ or somewhere like Porton Down, then you have the pool of information there if you ever need it.”

A former senior intelligence officer also claimed that the threat posed by Chinese technology is potentially huge, noting, “Can the Chinese go after our politicians if they want? Yes. Can the Russians persecute our politicians if they want? Yes. Can they hear what they’re doing in the cars? If they follow them and they want to, of course they can do that.”

The report comes just days after independent “snooping” British watchdog Fraser Sampson warned that more than one in three police forces in the UK are using Chinese surveillance technology with potential backdoors to the communist government and therefore a security threat to the country. Earlier this year, the same watchdog claimed that some Chinese-made surveillance cameras in the UK were fitted with hidden microphones that could be activated remotely.

In addition to concerns that Chinese technology is being used as a means of espionage, the CCP has also been accused of more traditional espionage. Last year, MI5 alleged that Christine Lee, the founder of the British Chinese Project, was operating in Westminster as a spy for Beijing. She is also said to have donated heavily to the left-wing Labor Party.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the Conservative Party and founding member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, commented on the alleged installation of tracking devices in British government cars by the Chinese: “I don’t know how much Britain still needs to know about the threat China poses to us represents all.

“It is certainly time to change the integrated review and designate China as a systemic threat.”

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London dismissed the claims as defamation aimed at reducing trade with Beijing, saying: “We are firmly opposed to political manipulation of normal economic and trade cooperation or any defamation of Chinese companies.

“The Chinese government always encourages Chinese companies to carry out foreign trade and investment cooperation in accordance with local laws as well as market principles and international guidelines. We strongly oppose attempts by some people to deliberately stretch the concept of national security to wear down Chinese companies.

“Defaming and suppressing Chinese companies and pushing for the decoupling and disruption of industrial and supply chains not only seriously undermines international trade rules, but will fragment the global market and sabotage the security and stability of global industrial and supply chains.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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