Intelligence warns of Chinese services' increased attention to Lithuania's internal affair

  • 2024-03-07
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Last year saw an increase in Chinese intelligence activity against Lithuania, with the main focus being on its internal affairs and upcoming elections, according to Lithuanian intelligence agencies.

"China intensifies intelligence activities against Lithuania from its territory. Its intelligence services increasingly use social networks to establish and maintain contact with potential targets as well as cyber espionage against Lithuania," the State Security Department and the Second Investigation Department under the Defense Ministry said in their annual national security threat assessment report published on Thursday.

The agencies note that Chinese intelligence services' requirements for information related to Lithuania have changed in recent years. 

"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," they said.

"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." 

According to the report, 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 media "to identify persons of interest who fit their target". 

"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," the agencies said.

"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 assignment," they said.

According to the report, Chinese intelligence actively uses the Linkedin platform "for targeting, as its users publicly disclose a significant amount of personal information".  

The agencies also note that 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 favorable conditions for Chinese intelligence to operate." 

China's intelligence services also use Chinese scientists working abroad for espionage, according to the report.

"Due to the obligation to cooperate with Chinese intelligence, Chinese scientists and students working or interning abroad become potential targets of Chinese intelligence", the agencies said. 

"China is expanding its cyber-intelligence capabilities against Lithuania. Cyber espionage groups associated with China regularly scan the networks of Lithuanian state institutions for breaches and seek to infiltrate their networks to intercept information and data," they said.

Lithuania's intelligence agencies publish their national security threat assessment reports every year. The latest document looks into key threats and risk factors to Lithuania's national security in 2024-2025.