By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Sept. 22: China’s giant company Xiaomi Corp. smartphones have built-in software to censor sensitive terms such as ‘Free Tibet’, ‘Long Live Taiwan Independence’ or ‘democracy movement’, according to a Lithuanian state-run cybersecurity report. The defence ministry recommended its citizens to avoid the purchase of Chinese mobile phones, and advised them to get rid of the ones already bought from the market.
The National Cyber Security Centre said this function in Xiaomi’s Mi 10T 5G phone software has been turned off for the European Union region but can be turned on remotely at any time. “Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” Defence Deputy Minister Margiris Abukevicius told reporters on Tuesday.
In total, the report concluded that there are 449 terms which could be censored by Xiaomi phones. It also noted that the list is continuously updated, which means Xiaomi could both add or remove terms on a regular basis. “This is important not only to Lithuania but to all countries which use Xiaomi equipment,” the Centre highlighted in the report.
The cybersecurity body said that the Xiaomi phone was sending encrypted phone usage data to an unknown server in Singapore. The report also claimed that they found a security flaw in Huawei’s P40 5G phone but none was found in the phones of another giant Chinese maker, One Plus.
Chinese state-run media mouthpiece Global Times on Wednesday said that Lithuania is the ‘anti-China vanguard’ in Europe, which is repeatedly trying to “woo the US” to gain national security against Russia and China. “If Lithuania steps on China’s bottom line, the possibility of a ‘diplomatic relations cut-off’ cannot be ruled out after prudent assessment,” the report further stated.
This new finding has surfaced in the midst of weakening relationship between the two countries. Last month, China demanded that Lithuania withdraw its ambassador in Beijing after Taiwan announced that its mission in Lithuania would be called the Taiwanese Representative office, changing it from just ‘Taipei’.