An internal analysis report from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz in Germany or BfV), Germany’s domestic security agency, pointed out that German tourists and business travelers visiting China are facing the threat of Chinese intelligence agencies eavesdropping on them. The internal report warned that, since May 2019, new regulations which open the door for Chinese intelligence agencies have been introduced into China’s visa application. “At the visa application stage, the intelligence agency can screen the targets for eavesdropping based on the applicant’s information.” BfV believes that the new application form for Chinese visas has added a great number of questions, thus facilitating espionage.
Deutsche Welle also checked application forms on the China’s Visa Application website and found that the newly added contents were mainly professional information compared to the previous versions. The new form requires a complete detailing of professional experience, including the contact details of the companies and also the name and contact information of the direct supervisor. In addition to the educational history, the new form also requires information on language skills. Information on military service, past experience abroad, special skills such as explosives, nuclear engineering, participation in charitable organizations, and the history of any mental illness.
In contrast, Chinese citizens who apply for a short-term in Germany and are issued a visa to the Schengen Area are not required to provide such detailed information. However, for Chinese citizens to apply for a visa to the United States, the information required is much more detailed.
The German language Focus magazine that obtained the above mentioned BfV report revealed that the BfV report pointed out that the personal sensitive information that the applicants fill out for a Chinese visa will help Chinese intelligence agencies to be able to prepare better for potential eavesdropping. “China has been installing comprehensive monitoring facilities in public in recent years. This further facilitates the surveillance.” “If the visitor is selected in advance, the intelligence agency will immediately put him through comprehensive and nonstop monitoring as soon as he enters the country.” It is “almost unavoidable” that his paper materials and digital information on smartphones and computers will be subject to inspection.
The report also emphasized, “The greater the risk, the more caution should be taken when staying in the concerned country.” BfV suggested that the less sensitive the information is that German travelers carry to China, the better. “It’s best to carry a brand new phone for one-time use, instead of a smartphone that stores sensitive information.” The laptop one carries should also not contain important company data.
Source: Deutsche Welle, October 9, 2019