China accuses United States of ‘hypocrisy’ as hacking row escalates

Beijing summoned the US ambassador and accused Washington of double standards on Tuesday as a diplomatic row escalated over the unprecedented indictment of five Chinese military officers for cyber-espionage. 

The world’s top two economies have long been at loggerheads over hacking and China’s defence ministry denounced Washington’s allegations as ‘a pure fabrication by the US, a move to mislead the public based on ulterior motives’. 

‘From ‘WikiLeaks’ to the ‘Snowden’ case, US hypocrisy and double standards regarding the issue of cyber-security have long been abundantly clear,’ the ministry said in a statement on its website. 

China also summoned US ambassador Max Baucus to lodge a ‘solemn representation’ over the indictment, suspended cooperation with the US on cyber-security issues and banned the use of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system on all new government computers. 

Beijing’s furious response came one day after the US charged five members of a shadowy Chinese military unit with allegedly hacking US companies for trade secrets. 

In the first-ever prosecution of state actors over cyber-espionage, a federal grand jury indicted the five on charges they broke into US computers to benefit Chinese state-owned companies, leading to job losses in the US in the steel, solar and other industries. 

Cyber-spying has long been a major sticking point in relations but Washington’s move marked a major escalation in the dispute. 

Analysts said the US was unlikely to be able to put the men on trial but the indictments were an attempt to apply public pressure on China over the issue. 

US prosecutors said the five officers belonged to Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army. 

A report last year by US security firm Mandiant said the unit had thousands of workers operating from a nondescript, 12-storey building on the outskirts of Shanghai to pilfer intellectual property and government secrets. 

The grand jury indicted each of the five on 31 counts, which carry up to 15 years in prison. 

US attorney Ggeneral Eric Holder called on China to hand over the men for trial in Pittsburgh and said the US would use ‘all the means that are available to us’ should it refuse. 

President Barack Obama’s administration ‘will not tolerate actions by any nation that seek to illegally sabotage American companies and undermine the integrity of fair competition’, Holder told reporters. 

China’s foreign ministry rejected the US indictment as ‘absurd’ and suspended the activities of a 
bilateral cyber working group. 

Its formation was announced last year by the US secretary of State John Kerry, but analysts said there had been little progress on the issue and Washington had probably decided to change tact. 

‘I think the US, they probably realised they’re not going to get any cooperation from the Chinese, so they wanted to take things into their own hands,’ Hoo Tiang Boon, a China expert at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told AFP. 

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