The Chinese government is funding sensitive computer and communications networks in South Pacific nations, stoking fears that Australian government intelligence could be transmitted directly to Beijing.
China has built on credit a $US53 million central database for the PNG government. It has also built a broadband network to “link all government departments and agencies”, funded with a further $US65.4m loan, according to the Lowy Institute think tank, The Australian reports.
Both projects were delivered by China’s Huawei group, which the federal government banned from participating in the National Broadband Network rollout because of security concerns.
Yet in PNG Huawei has delivered a “biometric identification system” that registers the fingerprints of all voters. That information is then used for “electronic voting, e-passport, general data and statistics”. China has also gifted computers to the Fiji Ministry of Defence and a $US8.12m building to East Timor’s Ministry of Defence and Security.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Malcolm Davis said information entered into major China-delivered systems would go “straight back to Beijing”.
“The way the Chinese establish their information networks, they would be doing it in a manner which would be useful for them to monitor the activity and gather information that would be useful for them. That would range from information that would be useful for them from political negotiations, economic bargaining through to top defence and security affairs.”
Dr Davis said Pacific Island nations should be doing “exactly the same thing” as Australia and the US and ban Huawei from building critical infrastructure.
“It’s a no-brainer that China would take advantage of this,” Dr Davis said.