Lithuania advises throwing away Chinese mobile phones hardwired with censorship function

Lithuania stands out among EU countries in its defiance against China.

Kayla Wong | September 22, 2021, 03:32 PM

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The Baltic state of Lithuania has advised its people to avoid buying Chinese mobile phones, and to get rid of the ones they already have "as fast as reasonably possible", Reuters reported.

The recommendation came after they discovered built-in censorship functions in the phones.

In a government report, the country's cybersecurity centre under its defence ministry, said on Sep. 21 that flagship phones sold in Europe by Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi are hardwired to detect and censor terms such as "Free Tibet", "Long live Taiwan independence", and "democracy movement".

The internet security organisation added that while such capabilities have been switched off on the Mi 10T 5G phone software -- first released in 2020 -- for the EU region, it can be switched on remotely at any moment.

Downward spiral in relations

Relations between Lithuania and China have plummeted recently, after China objected to the Eastern European country's decision in July to set up reciprocal diplomatic offices with Taiwan.

The move comes despite a trend of Taiwan's allies switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, and is rather significant as Taiwan's de-facto embassy in Lithuania will include "Taiwan" in its name, and be called "Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania".

Besides its embassies in its 15 remaining diplomatic allies, which contain the word "Taiwan" in their name, Taiwan's representative offices in at least 47 countries have the name "Taipei" instead.

Beijing has most recently warned Washington not to allow Taipei's representative office to change its name to include the word "Taiwan", following a Financial Times report that said Washington is "seriously considering" the renaming.

Beijing views the self-ruled island of Taiwan as part of its territory, and believes that Taiwan doesn't have the right to diplomatic recognition from other countries.

China says Lithuania is to be blamed for deterioration in relations

Voicing its objection to Lithuania's move, Beijing has recalled its ambassador from Lithuania on Aug. 10, and expelled Lithuania's from Beijing. It asked Vilnius to recall its ambassador from Beijing too, which Vilnius went on to do on Sep. 3.

Lashing out at Lithuania for its decision, the Chinese foreign ministry told Lithuania to "immediately rectify its wrong decision, take concrete measures to undo the damage, and not to move further down the wrong path", official state-run media Xinhua reported.

It also accused Lithuania of disregarding the "repeated representations" it has made on the Taiwan issue, and the "potential consequences" of doing so.

Lithuania has "arbitrarily persisted on its own course in total disregard to China's stance", the Chinese foreign ministry said, adding that Lithuania bears responsibility for their "bilateral relations plunging into a difficult situation".

Following the move, Lithuanian officials claimed that China has begun making bilateral trade more difficult, such as stopping the approval of new permits for food experts to China, The Baltic Times reported.

Lithuania stands out in its defiance to China

Lithuania's pulling out of China's "17+1" group in May, as well as its effort to pursue trade relations with Taiwan, despite Chinese objection, stands out among other European countries as a rather bold move.

This is particularly so as the EU and China have recently agreed on a comprehensive investment pact.

Amid deteriorating relations with Beijing, the country has called on European states to reduce their reliance on China, with Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis saying at an informal meeting with other EU foreign ministers on Sep. 3 that there was a need for "a strategic assessment of relations with China".

He had also previously said relations with China should be "no exception" when it comes to the unity among all 27 EU member states, which have led to its success in various initiatives, such as vaccination rollout.

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Top image via Getty Images

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