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It’s about time we started discussing China’s influence in Latvia

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Last week, noted Estonian marine scientist and researcher at the Tallin Technical University Tarmo Kõuts was sentenced to prison for spying for a Chinese intelligence service. He had access to Estonian and NATO classified information for quite some time, and during the last three years he received €17,000 for handing this information over to China, writes NRA journalist Juris Paiders.

If you ask me, it’s a laughable amount of money to betray your motherland and end up behind bars. At the same time, I’m quite certain that our own compatriots would be willing to double-cross our country for an even lower price.

Kõuts was also assisted by a woman – a formerly well-known golf player and owner of a consulting firm. She had been travelling quite a lot in recent years, including to China. It is possible that it was during one of her trips to Hong Kong that she was recruited by Chinese intelligence officers.

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It should be noted that trips to China is the most common way Latvians get recruited to work for Chinese intelligence services. This is usually done according to the same pattern Soviet chekists used to recruit naïve Western travelers – the local Beijing embassy carefully selects the potential “tourists” and offers them to go on a trip to the “misunderstood” and exotic Celestial Empire. These “tourists” are most often asked to participate in an international event, a forum or conference, where Chinese intelligence services then select the most suitable agents of influence from around the world.

These “tourists” are most likely to be members of a specific profession – journalists, politicians and scientists. In order to maintain secrecy, Beijing may offer the trip to China not to the person it is interested in, but instead to one of their relatives, be it their spouse, children or parents.

Upon returning to their home country, the Chinese embassy asks the “tourists” to repay the generous trip with loyalty. Initially, it may be a simple social media entry that portrays China in a positive light. Then, perhaps an interview with a local media outlet to talk about the prosperity witnessed in China. In special cases, you may have to repay the favor by betraying your country. The latter fate was experienced by the naïve Estonian scientist Kõuts.

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This is how China is able to recruit loyal agents of influence that can later be used to carry out influence operations.

Local journalists are asked to publish articles that favor China or maintain blogs and social media pages that propagate cooperation with Beijing. In some cases, the propaganda articles are prepared with the help of the embassy or the news agency Xinhua, and all the recruited journalist is required to do is to “lend” the Chinese his name and status. The keenest of readers will have already noticed that pro-China articles have appeared in Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze and Diena, and occasionally in some pro-Kremlin media outlets as well.

Recruited politicians are also required to prove their loyalty. This is usually done by voting on issues that benefit Beijing, or sometimes by reporting on domestic processes and intrigues taking place in the government halls. Those of you who follow politics know that in recent years several Latvian politicians from different parties have visited China, only to then propagate co-operation with China by praising the progress and the remarkable order they witnessed there.

I won’t name any names, but the parties they represent include the usual suspects, i.e. Concord, Union of Greens and Farmers and Latvian Russian Union, as well as the pseudo-patriotic National Alliance. I’ve also personally witnessed that among these preachers of national values there are also people who after their “trip” to the magnificent China are willing to praise Communism’s superiority over the “liberal” values of Europe.

And lastly, long-term co-operation with Chinese intelligence services is also offered to scientists, and this usually entails sharing sensitive information. This is called “scientific espionage”.

Kõuts case is the first of its kinds in Estonia, and maybe even all the Baltic states, when a person has been caught spying not for Moscow, but Beijing. Perhaps this is the first high-profile case in the Baltics involving China’s influence out of the many that are inevitably to come.

I already have a candidate for facing a similar fate to Kõuts – instead of revealing the person’s name, I will just say that excellent knowledge of geography doesn’t guarantee that a person has a good moral compass.

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Lithuanian cybersecurity agency finds Chinese phones risk personal data leakage

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The National Cyber ​​Security Center under the Ministry of National Defense (NKSC) of Lithuania conducted a security investigation of the Chinese manufacturers Huawei P40 5G, Xiaomi Mi 10T 5G and OnePlus 8T 5G smart 5G devices sold in Lithuania.

“This study was initiated in order to ensure the safe use of 5G mobile devices sold in Lithuania and the software contained in them within our country. Three Chinese manufacturers have been selected who have been offering 5G mobile devices to Lithuanian consumers since last year and who have been identified by the international community as posing certain cyber security risks,” said Margiris Abukevičius, deputy minister of national defence.

The study identified four key cyber security risks. Two relate to gadgets installed on the manufacturer's devices, one to the risk of personal data leakage and one to possible restrictions on freedom of expression. Three risks were identified at Xiaomi's device, one at Huawei, and no cyber security vulnerabilities were identified at OnePlus' mobile device.

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Risks for gadgets manufacturers

Analyzing Huawei's 5G smartphone performance, the researchers found that the device's official app app store, App App, which does not find the user-requested app, automatically redirects it to third-party email. stores where some gadget antivirus programs have been rated as malicious or infected with viruses. Researchers have also attributed cyber security risks to Xiaomi's Mi Browser. It uses not only the standard Google Analytics module in other browsers, but also the Chinese Sensor Data, which collects and periodically sends up to 61 parameter data about the actions performed on the user's phone.

“In our opinion, this is really redundant information about user actions. The fact that this rich statistical information is sent and stored in an encrypted channel on Xiaomi servers in third countries where the General Data Protection Regulation does not apply is also a risk,” said Dr. Tautvydas Bakšys.

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Restrictions on freedom of expression

Analyzing the performance of the Xiaomi device, the researchers found that it had the technical capability to censor the content downloaded to it. Even several manufacturer's gadgets on your phone, including the Mi Browser, periodically receive a manufacturer's blocked keyword list. When it detects that the content you want to send contains words in the list, the device automatically blocks that content.

At the time of the study, the list included 449 keywords or groups of keywords in Chinese characters, such as "Free Tibet", "Voice of America", "Democratic Movement" "Longing Taiwan Independence" and more.

"We found that the content filtering function was disabled on Xiaomi phones sold in Lithuania and did not perform content censorship, but the lists were sent periodically. The device has the technical capability to activate this filtering function remotely at any minute without the user's knowledge and to start analyzing the downloaded content. We do not rule out the possibility that the list of blocked words could be compiled not only in Chinese but also in Latin characters,” added Bakšys.

Risk of personal data leakage

The risk of personal data leakage has been identified on a Xiaomi device when a user chooses to use the Xiaomi Cloud service on the Xiaomi device. To activate this service, an encrypted SMS registration message is sent from the device, which is not saved anywhere later. "Investigators were unable to read the contents of this encrypted message, so we can't tell you what information the device sent. This automated sending of messages and the hiding of their content by the manufacturer poses potential threats to the security of the user's personal data, because without his knowledge, data of unknown content can be collected and transmitted to servers in third countries," added Bakšys.

Lithuania has already incurred China's rancour; in August, Beijing demanded that it recall its ambassador after it established a representative office in Taiwan, which claims that Taiwan (Republic of China) is part of China (People's Republic of China).

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Competition: EU, US and the People's Republic of China participated in the Fifth Global Maritime Regulatory Summit

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On 7 September, senior government officials from the EU, the US and the People's Republic of China participated in the Fifth Global Maritime Regulatory Summit. Participants included representatives of the competition and maritime authorities responsible for regulating international liner shipping in the world's largest liner trade lanes.

The summit covered sectoral developments since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, including the challenges faced by the international container transport sector and broader issues of maritime supply chains. Participants agreed that the pandemic presented operators in shipping companies, ports and logistics services with exceptional challenges, on routes to and from the EU as well in other parts of the world.

They exchanged views on the respective actions undertaken by their jurisdictions, as well as future outlook and perspectives, including possible actions to increase the resilience of the sector. The summit takes place every two years and is a forum to foster cooperation between the three authorities. The next summit will be convened in 2023 in China.

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Reimagining a more resilient UN system with Taiwan in it

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After more than 200 million infections and over 4 million deaths and counting, the COVID-19 pandemic has raged across the globe. This has created a profoundly devastating socio-economic impact on our interconnected world, with virtually no countries spared. The pandemic has disrupted global trade, exacerbated poverty, impeded education, and compromised gender equality, with middle to low income nations bearing the brunt of the burden, writes Jaushieh Joseph Wu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan) (pictured, below).

As many countries brace for another spike of the virus, prompted by the highly contagious Delta variant, the world looks up to the United Nations (UN) to ramp up comprehensive efforts to resolve the crisis, ensure better recovery, and rebuild sustainably. This is a daunting task that requires all hands on deck. It is time for the global body to welcome Taiwan, a valuable and worthy partner that stands ready to lend a helping hand.  

Over the past few months, Taiwan, like many other countries, has been dealing with a surge of COVID-19 cases after almost a year of success in containing the virus. Yet, it got a handle on the situation and emerged even more ready to work with allies and partners to tackle the challenges posed by the pandemic. Taiwan’s effective response to the pandemic, its rapid capacity expansion to meet global supply chain demand, and its substantive assistance toward partner countries around the world all speak to the fact that there is no lack of compelling reasons for Taiwan to play a constructive role in the UN system.

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However, under pressure from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the UN and its specialized agencies continue to reject Taiwan, citing the 1971 UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 (XXVI) as a legal basis for this exclusion. But the language of the resolution is crystal clear: it merely addresses the issue of China’s representation in the UN; there is no mention of Chinese claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, nor does it authorize the PRC to represent Taiwan in the UN system. The fact is, the PRC has never governed Taiwan. This is the reality and status quo across the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwanese people can only be represented on the international stage by their popularly elected government. By falsely equating the language of the resolution with Beijing’s “one China Principle,” the PRC is arbitrarily imposing its political views on the UN.

The absurdity doesn’t end there. This exclusion also obstructs the participation of Taiwan’s civil society. Taiwanese passport holders are denied access to UN premises, both for tours and meetings, while Taiwanese journalists cannot obtain accreditation to cover UN events. The only reason for this discriminatory treatment is their nationality. Barring members of Taiwan’s civil society from the UN defeats the ideal of multilateralism, contravenes the UN’s founding principles of promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and hampers the UN’s overall efforts.

For six decades, Taiwan has been providing assistance to partner countries around the world. Since the adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda, it has focused on helping partners achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and, more recently, engage in antipandemic response and postpandemic recovery. Meanwhile, at home, Taiwan has fulfilled its SDGs in gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and good health and well-being, among others. Our innovative, community-based solutions are harnessing public-private partnerships for the benefit of society as a whole.

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The World Happiness Report 2021, released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranked Taiwan the happiest in East Asia, and 24th in the world. The ranking indicates how the people of a country feel about the social support they receive, and reflects in large part a country’s implementation of the SDGs. Taiwan is willing to pass on its experience and work with global partners to build a better and more resilient future for all.

At a time when the world is sounding the clarion call for climate actions and to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Taiwan is actively charting a roadmap toward the goal, and has drafted dedicated legislation to facilitate this process. Climate change knows no borders, and concerted efforts are a must if we want a sustainable future. Taiwan knows this, and is working on the best ways to turn the challenges of carbon reduction into new opportunities.

In his oath of office in June this year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed our shared vulnerability and interconnectedness. He said that the UN, and the states and people it serves, can only benefit from bringing others to the table.

Denying partners that have the ability to contribute is a moral and material loss to the world as we seek to recover better together. Taiwan is a force for good. Now is the time to bring Taiwan to the table and let Taiwan help.

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