Chinese Geolocation Device Found in UK Govt Car: Report

A Chinese geolocation tracking device was reportedly discovered in a British government car that would be used by high-level officials, including cabinet ministers, raising further concerns about Chinese espionage in the UK.

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

A serving member of the British intelligence community told the paper: “It [the tracking SIMs] gives the opportunity to survey the government over a period of months and years, constantly recording movements, constantly building up a rich picture of the activity.

“You can do it slowly and methodically over a very, very long time. That’s the vulnerability.”

The SIM card was allegedly placed inside a sealed part of the vehicle which was imported from a supplier in China. The newspaper noted that car manufacturers are reluctant to open up such components as it would void the warranty, and therefore the geolocation device was not detected.

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

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

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

A former senior intelligence official also argued that the threat posed by Chinese technology is potentially huge, noting: “Can the Chinese track our politicians if they want to? Yes. Can the Russians track our politicians if they want to? Yes. Can they listen to what they are doing in the cars? If they track them, and they want to, of course they can.”

The report comes just days after Britain’s independent “snooping” watchdog, Fraser Sampson, warned that more than one in three UK police forces use Chinese surveillance technology with potential backdoors for the communist government, and therefore represent 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 about technology from China being used as a means of espionage, the CCP has also been accused of more traditional espionage. Last year, the MI5 intelligence agency claimed that Christine Lee, the founder of the British Chinese Project, was operating in Westminster as a spy for Beijing. She was also alleged to have donated heavily to the left-wing Labor Party.

Commenting on the Chinese allegedly installing tracking devices in British government vehicles, the former Conservative Party leader and founding member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance said of China: “I don’t know how much more Britain needs to know about the threat China poses to us all.

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

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London dismissed the claims as a smear intended to reduce trade with Beijing, saying: “We strongly oppose political manipulation of normal economic and trade cooperation or any smear against Chinese companies.

“The Chinese government always encourages Chinese companies to conduct foreign trade and investment cooperation in line with local laws as well as market principles and international directions. We strongly oppose some people’s move to deliberately stretch the concept of national security to wear down Chinese enterprises.

“Smearing and oppressing Chinese companies and pushing for disconnection 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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