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China accuses US of 'double standards' on hacking

June 13, 2013 16:05 IST

China on Thursday kept mum on US whistleblower Edward Snowden's attempts to take refuge in Hong Kong but took a moral high ground accusing Washington of "double standards" citing his allegations that it has been conducting hacking attacks on China for years.

"Unfortunately I have no information right now to provide to you", the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told a packed media briefing here today declining to reveal how Beijing plans to deal with Snowden.

The former US government subcontractor, who exposed massive US phone and Internet spying, has delivered a propaganda coup of sorts for China to counter US' persistent allegations of Chinese hacking attacks.

"On Snowden's case, we have noticed relevant report but unfortunately we have no information to offer", she said.

While stonewalling all questions on his possible extradition, Hua, took a dig at Washington reminding the media how Beijing was complaining of hacker attacks from US for long.

In his interview to the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post from a "secret location in the city", the 29-year-old former CIA analyst made claims that the US government had been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland for years.

Snowden said that according to unverified documents, US's National Security Agency had been hacking computers in Hong Kong and in China since 2009.

None of the documents revealed any information about Chinese military systems, he said referring to reports of Chinese military involvement in carrying out cyber attacks.

One of the targets in Hong Kong according to Snowden, was ChineseUniversity and public officials, businesses and students in the city.

The documents also point to hacking activity by the NSA against targets in China, the Post said.

Snowden believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, with hundreds of targets in Hong Kong and China.

"We hack network backbones -- like huge internet routers, basically -- that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one," he said.

Reacting to Snowdon’s allegations, Hua said "as we have repeatedly said on this podium, China is also one of the major victims of hacking and cyber attacks. China strongly advocates cyber security."

She added that the international community should carry out constructive dialogue to ensure cyber security and cooperate jointly to deal with it”.

"We also think adoption of double standards will bring no benefit to the settlement of relevant issue", she said recalling the recent discussions on the issue in the informal summit between US President Barrack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

"We are opposed to all forms of hacker and cyber attacks", she said calling for constructive dialogue by the international community based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and mutual trust.

"We also would like to carry out constructive dialogue and cooperation with countries including the US based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and mutual trust", she said.

US and China have agreed to establish a cyber security working group, she said.

"Countries all over the world faced with cyber security issue. We believe should be addressed by international community together", she said.

For its part, the Chinese official media seized Snowdon's comments with analysts pointing out that his allegations are certain to stain Washington's overseas image and test developing Sino-US ties.

Li Haidong, a researcher of American studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said the United States is now stuck in the awkward position of having to explain itself to its citizens and the world following the exposure of Washington's vast Internet snooping program.

"For months, Washington has been accusing China of cyberespionage, but it turns out that the biggest threat to the pursuit of individual freedom and privacy in the US is the unbridled power of the government," Li told state run China Daily.

Zhang Tuosheng, a researcher at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said that despite controversies, cybersecurity is still proving to be a new realm for cooperation between China and the US, especially in the wake of this surveillance controversy.

K J M Varma in Beijing
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