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China intensifies intelligence activities against Lithuania from its territory

China intensifies intelligence activities against Lithuania from its territory

The significantly reduced capabilities of the Chinese diplomatic mission and unfavourable counter-intelligence regime in Lithuania have restricted the ability of Chinese intelligence services to collect information in Lithuania or directly influence the country’s socio-political affairs. As a result, Chinese intelligence services are concentrating on developing an agency in Lithuania and collecting intelligence from Chinese territory.

Chinese intelligence services actively use the social network Linkedin for targeting, as its users publicly disclose a significant amount of personal information AFP / Scanpix

Similarly to other Western countries, one of the most common methods used by Chinese intelligence services to establish and maintain contact with potential targets is via social networks. Chinese intelligence uses social networks to identify persons of interest who fit their target profile. These individuals may have direct access to sensitive information or a wide network of contacts, including officials, politicians, journalists, businesspeople, scientists who can be used as intermediaries in intelligence operations. Chinese intelligence officers usually use the cover of representatives of various companies or think tanks when approaching targets, offering financial incentives for information. Targets are typically invited to travel to China, where they receive their payment and new intelligence assignments.

Chinese intelligence services have also increased cyber espionage against Lithuania. Cyber actors affiliated with China regularly conduct vulnerability scans of networks of Lithuanian government institutions with the aim of penetrating their networks and exfiltrating data. In recent years, intelligence requirements of Chinese intelligence services for information related to Lithuania have changed. Previously, China was mostly interested in information about the ‘five poisons’ (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Falun Gong) as well as Lithuania’s role in the EU and NATO. Currently, Chinese intelligence priorities have shifted towards Lithuania’s internal affairs, political divisions, and foreign policy. In the short term, Chinese intelligence services likely will seek to collect information on Lithuanian national elections, both presidential and parliamentary as well as the European Parliament election.

We assess that the risk of Chinese intelligence services targeting Lithuanian citizens travelling to China has increased since China lifted the pandemic restrictions and allowed travel for business, academic, and cultural exchange purposes. Chinese intelligence is likely to approach Lithuanian citizens during their visits to third countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, where there is no strict counter-intelligence regime, thus creating favourable conditions for Chinese intelligence to operate.

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