An angry Chinese government on Monday rejected the Obama administration’s charges of cybertheft by members of China’s military, and turned the tables by accusing the U.S. government of extensive surveillance activities against foreign leaders.
China’s reaction, which said the U.S. charges were “absurd,” also seems to be a strong indication that China will not allow the five officers to be tried in a U.S. court — dashing Attorney General Eric Holder’s hope that China would cooperate in the case.
Holder said Monday morning that five officers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army hacked five companies: Westinghouse Electric, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies Incorporated, U.S. Steel and SolarWorld. Holder said the United Steelworkers Union was also hacked.
A short time later, China reacted by saying that it is a “victim of severe U.S. cyber theft, wiretapping and surveillance activities.”
“Large amounts of publicly disclosed information show that relevant U.S. institutions have been conducting cyber intrusion, wiretapping and surveillance activities against Chinese government departments, institutions, companies, universities and individuals,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang said. “China has, on many occasions, made serious representations with the U.S. side. We once again strongly urge the U.S. side to make a clear explanation of what it has done and immediately stop such kind of activities.”
China also rejected Holder’s charges as “ungrounded and absurd.”
“This U.S. move, which is based on fabricated facts, grossly violates the basic norms governing international relations and jeopardizes China-U.S. cooperation and mutual trust,” Qin said. “China lodged protest with the U.S. side right after the announcement, urging the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistake and withdraw the ‘indictment.’ “
And in a further sign that China will not cooperate with the U.S., Qin said China would immediately suspend a bilateral Cyber Working Group with the United States.
“China will react further to the U.S. ‘indictment’ as the situation evolves,” Qin said.
Earlier Monday, Holder said he was hopeful that China would work with the U.S. by letting the five officials to be subject to U.S. law.
“We expect, we hope the Chinese government will work with us in connection with this and bring these indicted men to justice,” Holder said. “Our intention is for the defendants to have due process in an American court of law. That is the intention of what we have done today, to hold accountable people who have engaged in activities that violate American criminal law.”
Holder was asked what he could do if China didn’t cooperate. In reply, he said, “There are a range of things that we can do, and we will employ all of them,” but he did not offer any examples.