In a letter to Congress leader K.C. Venugopal on Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that the government had constituted an expert committee to look into allegations that a Chinese company monitored online activity and data on thousands of Indians, including politicians, bureaucrats and journalists.
Sources said that the letter included details of the committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator to investigate any illegalities in the surveillance carried out, reportedly by Shenzhen based Zhenhua Data Information Technology Company.
Zhenhua reportedly built a database of dossiers on about 2.4 million people worldwide. The government also said that they had asked Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong to explain the activities of the company but that he had distanced the Chinese government from Zhenhua, calling it a private company.
Mr. Venugopal, who had questioned the government in the Rajya Sabha about its actions over the report on Zhenhuas activities that appeared in Indian Express, also confirmed receiving the letter.
Replying to my zero-hour intervention on Chinese surveillance, EAM Dr. Jaishankar informed us that the government has taken the matter seriously and constituted an expert committee to assess this within 30 days. We expect quick action on this, Mr. Venugopal tweeted.
In Beijing, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought to defend Zhenhuas activities.
The company said clearly that its a private company, and its clients are research institutions and business groups. Instead of collecting data, it only mobilizes data which is open and available online. Id like to stress that as a staunch defender of cyber security, China opposes and fights all cyber crimes, said Wang Wenbin, Chinese MFA spokesperson.