Chinese state news outlets today urged "severe punishments" for "US government pawns" such as Google Inc and Apple Inc, for their role in alleged cyber monitoring and data theft within Chinese borders, Reuters reported.
Communist Party-linked newspaper The People's Daily and the English-language China Daily condemned Google, Apple, Yahoo Inc, Cisco Systems Inc, Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc for compromising Chinese cyber security, but did not give details on specific offences the companies are supposed to have committed.
China's state-run media has been highly critical of US cyber policy since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked privileged documents to international newspapers last summer. At least one document appeared to reveal a covert operation to monitor servers owned by Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies.
Snowden's revelations of NSA-run surveillance programme Prism included details of a secret court that compelled US Internet companies to disclose personal information held in user accounts for the purposes of national security. Companies listed as part of Prism included those named today by The People's Daily.
"US companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. are all co-ordinating with the Prism programme to monitor China," the People's Daily said on its official microblog.
"To resist the naked Internet hegemony, we will draw up international regulations, and strengthen technology safeguards, but we will also severely punish the pawns of the villain. The priority is strengthening penalties and punishments, and for anyone who steals our information, even though they are far away, we shall punish them!"
The war of words between Washington and Beijing over cyber espionage has escalated in recent days following last month's in-absentia indictments by US federal prosecutors of five Chinese military officers for hacking into US companies' servers.
China has responded by banning Microsoft Windows 8 on government computers and introducing screening of foreign companies who supply IT services, software or hardware to Chinese organisations.
Google is so far the only company on the People's Daily's list to have responded with a comment.
"We cannot say this more clearly - the [US] government does not have access to Google servers - not directly, or via a back door, or a so-called drop box," said Google's chief legal officer, David Drummond, in an emailed statement. "We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law."
Google has already had its services blocked by Chinese censors in preparation for today's 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, when Beijing authorities moved against pro-democracy activists.
Original headline: China state media urges 'severe punishment' of Google, Apple et al
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