Taking a page from US President Donald Trump’s playbook, China on Thursday denounced as “fake news” a US newspaper report that it is listening to Trump’s telephone calls and suggested that he exchange his iPhone for a cellphone made by Chinese manufacturer Huawei.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) did not provide any evidence or cite any specifics in her dismissal of the report in the New York Times.
China tightly censors domestic media and routinely rejects critical foreign media reporting about the Chinese Communist Party as biased or fabricated.
Hua told reporters that the journalists behind the report “are sparing no efforts to win the Academy Award for best screenplay.”
“Firstly, the New York Times should know that such a report just provides another piece of evidence that the New York Times is making fake news,” Hua said.
In accusing the newspaper of fabricating news, Hua echoed language used by Trump, who has often accused the newspaper of making up stories.
“Secondly, I suggest they replace their iPhone with Huawei ones if they are really concerned about security issues,” Hua said.
A 2012 report by a US congressional panel said Huawei’s equipment was a security risk and Washington has banned US government personnel from using the company’s devices.
If the US is still concerned about security, Trump could “abandon all modern communication devices and cut off contact with the outside completely,” Hua said.
The Times reported that US intelligence said that Chinese and Russian spies are listening in when Trump calls friends on one of his iPhones and is using the information to try to influence him and affect administration policy.
Trump on Thursday wrote on Twitter that he only uses government phones “and have only one seldom used government cell phone.”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said that the Times report “presented inaccurate information about the president’s cell phone and its usage.”
Trump’s phone security “follows industry best practices and is closely managed under government supervision in conjunction with recommendations from industry partners,” Gidley said.
“The phone is rotated on a regular basis and is constantly monitored for any security vulnerabilities and attacks, in accordance with recommendations from the intelligence community,” he said.
China has been accused of efforts to target US government, military and commercial entities with cyberattacks.
In 2015, a massive hack of the US Office of Personnel Management, widely blamed on the Chinese government, compromised personal information of more than 21 million current, former and prospective federal employees, including those in the Pentagon.
Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence have also accused China of seeking to interfere in next month’s midterm elections.
They say Beijing wants to undermine the president’s campaign to force China to make concessions on trade and investment terms.
At a multinational defense forum in Beijing on Thursday, Chinese Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe (魏鳳和) denied any Chinese meddling.
“We strongly urge the US to correct its wrongful statement and refrain from harming bilateral relations,” Wei said.
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