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Chinese authorities discover hundreds of illegal foreign-related meteorological detection sites

(Global Times) -- Chinese authorities discovered hundreds of illegal foreign-related meteorological detection sites which are widely distributed across more than 20 provinces nationwide, transmitting weather data in real-time to overseas locations, posing risks and hidden dangers to China’s national security, the Ministry of State Security (MSS) said on Tuesday.

Illegal foreign-related meteorological detection sites.

Since the beginning of this year, national security authorities, in conjunction with departments such as meteorology and secrecy, have carried out special governance on foreign-related meteorological detection across the country in accordance with the law. They have investigated more than 10 agents of overseas meteorological equipment, inspected over 3,000 foreign-related meteorological sites, the ministry said in a WeChat post published on Tuesday morning.
These illegal foreign-related meteorological detection sites vary in their operations. 
Some of them are directly funded by foreign governments for their detection projects, with several observation points established around sensitive areas such as military units and military-industrial enterprises, conducting altitude verification and GPS positioning.
Others are positioned in our main grain-producing areas, linking analyses to the growth of our crops and grain production. There are even some that transmit data in real-time to foreign official meteorological institutions over extended periods, at high frequencies, and from multiple locations, serving the national security and meteorological monitoring needs of foreign countries.
The related equipment is small in size, easy to install, and hard to detect, with the capability to automatically collect data and transmit it in real time over a network, the Chinese authorities said.
These foreign-related meteorological detection activities have not applied for administrative permits for foreign-related meteorological detection from our meteorological authorities, nor have they submitted meteorological data to our meteorological authorities. The transmission of meteorological data to foreign countries has not been approved by our meteorological authorities, violating regulations such as the regulations on foreign-related meteorological detection and data management and the data security law.
The national security authorities, in conjunction with the meteorological and secrecy departments, have legally investigated and dealt with these illegal activities, promptly preventing the unlawful export of meteorological data.
The MSS also issued some reminders to warn the public remain vigilant against such illegal activities, for example, the establishment of foreign-related meteorological detection stations is subject to administrative licensing, and such stations may not be established without permission.
And the establishment of foreign-related meteorological detection stations is prohibited in areas related to national defense, military facilities, areas not yet opened to the outside world, key project construction areas, and other areas involving national security.
Meteorological data, as a type of foundational data, includes common categories such as routine observation data, satellite data, and radar materials. It constitutes an element of information and resource security, and is closely related to military security, food security, ecological security, climate change, and public interest, the ministry said.
The illegal collection and cross-border transmission of meteorological data pose risks to our country’s sovereignty, security, and developmental interests, it noted.
When conducting meteorological detection activities, all citizens and organisations must be vigilant about national security, effectively protect meteorological detection data, and must not engage in the illegal collection and cross-border transmission of data related to national security and interests on behalf of foreign entities, the ministry reminded.
“The non-traditional aspects of security include factors such as meteorology, climate, and the environment,” Li Wei, an expert on national security at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Th MSS’ latest revelation regarding the illegal collection and cross-border transmission of meteorological data shows that in the era of globalisation, countries are becoming more closely connected. Many aspects, including environmental climate, as well as energy and resources, have also become important fields related to national security in many non-traditional aspects, the expert said.
When it comes to national security factors in climate, it is not quite the same as the daily weather forecasts we are involved in, Li further explained. There are some background data concerning the climate characteristics of different regions of a country, or the impact it generates, part of which is confidential data, he said.
“Those non-public data in terms of climate may be used for military purposes, which belong to the part of national security,” Li said, warning that those illegal activities might become more covert in the future.

(Latest Update November 3, 2023)

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