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New Delhi: Lithuania has urged citizens to throw away their Chinese phones, especially Xiaomi’s Mi 10T, and avoid buying new ones, citing security concerns.

According to a report released by the Baltic country’s defence ministry Tuesday, Xiaomi smartphones sold in Europe have a built-in feature that detects and censors phrases like “Free Tibet”, “long live Taiwan independence” or “democracy movement”.

The feature in the Xiaomi Mi 10T is turned off in devices sold in Europe, but can be switched on remotely at any point, noted the report prepared by the country’s National Cyber Security Centre.

“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” said Margiris Abukevicius, deputy defence minister of the country.

According to Reuters, the cybersecurity report also noted that the Xiaomi phone transmitted encrypted data about phone usage to a server in Singapore.

The Reuters report, published Tuesday, further said a security flaw was also found in Huawei’s 5G phone P40, but no such concerns were identified in OnePlus, another Chinese smartphone brand.

While representatives of Huawei denied that its devices transmit data to external locations, Xiaomi has said that it does not censor communication to or from its users.

“Xiaomi has never and will never restrict or block any personal behaviours of our smartphone users, such as searching, calling, web browsing or the use of third-party communication software,” the company said in a statement to Reuters.

Xiaomi has been a very popular smartphone brand in Europe, and was adjudged the top-selling brand in August, capturing 25 per cent of the European market share, according to market intelligence firm Strategy Analytics. Globally, it is the second biggest phone brand after Samsung.


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China-Lithuania relations

The relations between Lithuania and China have deteriorated considerably after the European country allowed Taiwan to open an embassy in capital Vilnius under its own name in July this year.

While China considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory, the island nation maintains informal ties with all major nations.

Lithuania also pulled out of a nearly 10-year-old arrangement called ’17+1′, or ‘Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (China-CEEC Cooperation)’ in May this year.

According to a report in Foreign Policy, it was an informal arrangement that “promised Chinese infrastructure investments in the region but was increasingly used by China to maximise its diplomatic influence”.

In response, China recalled its ambassador to Lithuania, suspended freight train services between the two countries, and also limited trade.

(Edited by Rachel John)


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