China accuses US of ‘unscrupulous’ spying

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China is hitting back against the United States’ spying operations, days after the Obama administration escalated bubbling cyber tensions with charges against a team of Chinese hackers.

In a report issued by the China Academy of Cyber Space on Monday, Beijing accused the United States of running “unscrupulous secret surveillance programs” that “flagrantly infringe international laws, seriously impinge on human rights and put global cyber security under threat.”

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“America's spying operations have gone far beyond the legal rationale of ‘anti-terrorism’ and have exposed the ugly face of its pursuit of self-interest in complete disregard for moral integrity,” the agency said. “As such, they deserved to be rejected and condemned by the whole world.”

The Chinese organization specifically criticized a number of the programs revealed by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, including the government’s snooping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, plugging into fiber networks used by companies like Yahoo and Google and targeting Chinese firms like telecom giant Huawei.

It also alleged that the U.S. specifically targets “the Chinese government and Chinese leaders, Chinese companies, scientific research institutes, ordinary netizens, and a large number of cell phone users.”

“America must provide explanations for its surveillance activities, cease spying operations that seriously infringe upon human rights, and refrain from causing stress and antagonism in global cyber space,” the agency said in its report, called “America’s Global Surveillance Record.”

The report comes after the Justice Department last week filed criminal charges against five members of the Chinese military for hacking into a half-dozen U.S. companies and stealing trade secrets.

The move was seen as a serious intensification of tensions between the U.S. and China over cyber snooping, and many analysts predicted it could lead to some type of retribution aimed at Americans. 

Shortly after the charges, leaders in Beijing summoned U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus to formally protest the action and pulled out of a bilateral cyber working group.  

Unlike the Chinese operations, American intelligence officials maintain that operations at the NSA and other agencies are meant purely for national security purposes and to stop terrorists, not to enrich U.S. companies at the expense of their foreign competitors.