The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense recommended that consumers avoid buying Chinese mobile phones and advised people to throw away the ones they have now after a government report found the devices had built-in censorship capabilities.
Flagship phones sold in Europe by China’s smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp (小米) have a built-in ability to detect and censor terms such as “Free Tibet,” “Long live Taiwan independence” or “democracy movement,” Lithuania’s state-run cybersecurity body said on Tuesday.
The capability in Xiaomi’s Mi 10T 5G phone software had been turned off for the “European Union region,” but can be turned on remotely at any time, the defense ministry’s National Cyber Security Center said in the report.
“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” Lithuanian Deputy Minister of National Defense Margiris Abukevicius told reporters in introducing the report.
Xiaomi did not respond to a query for comment.
Relations between Lithuania and China have soured recently.
Last month, China demanded that Lithuania withdraw its ambassador in Beijing and said it would recall its ambassador to Vilnius after Taiwan announced that its mission in Lithuania would be called the “Taiwanese Representative Office.”
Taiwanese missions in Europe and the US use the name of the city Taipei, avoiding a reference to the nation itself, which China claims as its own territory.
Last week, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and stressed the US’ support for her country in the face of pressure from China.
The National Cyber Security Center’s report also said that the Xiaomi smartphone was sending encrypted usage data to a server in Singapore.
A security flaw was also found in the P40 5G phone by China’s Huawei Technologies Co (華為) but none was found in the phone of another Chinese maker, OnePlus (一加), it said.
Huawei’s representative in the Baltics told the BNS news wire that its phones do not send user’s data externally.
The report said that the list of terms that could be censored by the Xiaomi phone’s system apps, including the default Internet browser, currently includes 449 terms in Chinese and is continuously updated.
“This is important not only to Lithuania, but to all countries which use Xiaomi equipment,” the center said in the report.
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