Independent researchers revealed last weeks that a Chinese firm was collecting information on 2.4 million people worldwide, including over a thousand individuals in the Baltic states.
“First, you identify your targets and their associates. Next, you scrape data on them, determining whether they are friendly to China’s policies and if they have any secrets worth gaining. Finally, you make an approach to cultivate a relationship,” Anna-Marie Brady, resarcher at the US-based Wilson Center think tank, wrote for the Washington Post.
The database was created by China's Zhenhua Data Information Technology, which claims that its clients include Chinese defence and intelligence agencies.
Two American researchers were able to recover 10 percent of the database, which featured 438 names in Estonia, 517 in Latvia, and 504 in Lithuania. All of them are part of China’s 17+1 initiative, according to Brady.
The 17+1 initiative is a project started by the Chinese Foreign Ministry to build business ties between Beijing and 17 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic states.
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Researchers in the European Union and Lithuania have previously warned that formats such 17+1 aim to undermine the EU’s unity and create opportunities for Beijing to use investment to extract political dividends.
Lithuanian officials and intelligence agencies have also said that Chinese investments represent a risk to the country.
The data also includes criminals who are registered as “special interest persons” and “may be more susceptible to cooperating with foreign intelligence organisations”, wrote Brady.
The database “demonstrates the scale of [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s aggressive foreign policy”, she added.
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