China Denies Using LinkedIn to Recruit German Informants

2

Advertisement

BEIJING — China rejected on Monday accusations that it had used LinkedIn and other social media sites to infiltrate the German government, responding to claims from German intelligence services that more than 10,000 citizens had been targeted by Chinese spies.
In a scathing investigation released on Sunday, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, accused Beijing of using social media to connect with lawmakers and other government employees. To win their trust, the agency said, Chinese agents posed as leaders of think tanks and headhunters, and offered all-expenses-paid trips to China and meetings with influential clients.
In Beijing on Monday, Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the investigation “complete hearsay and groundless.” He urged German officials to “speak and act more responsibly.”
The German investigation added to anxieties in Western countries about Chinese efforts to infiltrate foreign governments and businesses, in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage, especially on economic and foreign policy issues. The United States has accused China of rampant economic espionage. Australia is debating tougher laws to guard against foreign interference, amid reports that China is meddling in Australian universities and elections.
German officials said that Chinese agents created fake profiles in hopes of “gleaning information and recruiting sources” in Germany. Chinese agents approached targets by saying they were interested in exchanging information or offering to establish contact for them with an expert on China, German officials said.
Hans-Georg Maassen, president of the German intelligence agency, called the efforts “a broad attempt to infiltrate Parliaments, ministries and administrations.”
LinkedIn said on Monday that it would deactivate the accounts of users that German officials had identified as spies, though it would not say how many. The company said it was conducting its own investigation.
“The safety and security of our platform is always a top priority,” Billy Huang, a spokesman, said in a statement.
LinkedIn is one of few foreign social media companies operating in China, in part because it adheres closely to Chinese regulations and has a relatively warm relationship with the government.
Under the scheme described by German intelligence, Chinese agents used aliases like Eva Han on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms. Some used photographs from fashion magazines as their profile pictures. Several listed fake company names.
Once they established contact with German citizens, the Chinese agents intensified the attempted exchange, asking for a résumé and offering compensation for work on a project, according to the German inquiry. They invited Germans to China for conferences or meetings with “important clients” who never materialized. They pressed the targets for sensitive information in exchange for money, the investigation found.
The German government has repeatedly warned in recent months that China is increasing its efforts to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from European targets.
In July, the government said that Chinese agents were seeking information about foreign and economic policy. It said China had targeted lawmakers and employees of the European and German Parliaments, lobbyists, members of the military, and representatives of foundations and think tanks.

Follow Javier C. Hernández and Melissa Eddy on Twitter: @HernandezJavier and @meddynyt.
Javier C. Hernández reported from Beijing, and Melissa Eddy from Berlin. Iris Zhao contributed research from Beijing.
Follow Javier C. Hernández and Melissa Eddy on Twitter: @HernandezJavier and @meddynyt.

Advertisement

4 Hurt as Blast Hits New York Transit Hub; Suspect Is Held

Key Senate Seat Hangs in Balance as Democrats Make Last Push

Trump’s Accusers ‘Should Be Heard,’ Nikki Haley Says

How ISIS Produced Its Cruel Arsenal on an Industrial Scale

Advertisement


Source: NYT EUROPE

SHARE