Lithuania’s Defense Ministry recommended that consumers “avoid buying Chinese mobile phones” and even advised “to get rid of” the existing ones. This happened after their government report found the devices had built-in censorship capabilities.
“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” said Lithuania’s Defence Deputy Minister, Margiris Abukevicius.
The country’s cybersecurity agency specifically looked at the Xiaomi Mi 10T, Huawei P40, and the OnePlus 8T. According to the agency, the phones have the built-in ability to detect and censor terms such as “Free Tibet”, “Long live Taiwan independence” or “democracy movement”.
That function is primarily meant for Chinese markets. The agency also mentioned that while the capability in Mi 10T software had been turned off for the “European Union region”, it can be turned on remotely at any time. The phone also has the ability to send encrypted phone usage data to a server in Singapore.
A day after Lithuania’s announcement, Xiaomi spokesman said its device “does not censor communications to or from its users”. They added that the company “complies with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation”.
“Xiaomi has never and will never restrict or block any personal behaviours of our smartphone users, such as searching, calling, web browsing or the use of third-party communication software,” said Xiaomi in a statement.
In August, it was reported that China demanded for Lithuania to withdraw its ambassador in Beijing. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Lithuania’s action was done in disregard of China’s repeated representations and articulation of potential consequences, and severely undermines China’s sovereignty.