After revealing his identity to The Guardian in Hong Kong (via CDT) and before beginning a long layover at the Moscow airport, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden publicly mentioned that the U.S. has long been hacking into Chinese computer systems, a remark that left the U.S. in an “awkward position” and prompted China’s state media to underline the “revealed U.S. hypocrisy.” In a piece translated for the Washington Post, Chinese writer and democracy activist Wang Lixiong, husband of Tibetan activist and blogger Woeser, looks at the events that led up to the couple’s most recent stint under house arrest to caution against drawing a parallel between the two country’s domestic surveillance activities:
Last month I boarded a train with my wife, Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan poet and activist, to travel from Beijing to Lhasa, Tibet, where her mother lives. Plainclothes police were waiting for us at the platform in Lhasa. They ushered us to a nearby police station, where they spent an hour going through our belongings. They were thrilled to find in my backpack a “probe hound,” as we call it in Chinese — a little electronic device that can detect wireless eavesdropping. They asked me why I, a writer, was carrying it. I told them I needed to know whether my home in Lhasa was being monitored.
They confiscated the device.
[…]These things happened as the Edward Snowden revelations were attracting the world’s attention. The Chinese government seemed gratified, even pleased. Look! The United States is no better than China, so let’s all just stop the mutual carping.
But let’s not jump to conclusions. How comparable are the cases? Is it conceivable that the United States would tell a citizen that he has no right to a probe hound? In China, the government can enter any space of any citizen anytime it wants. It is the “counterespionage” of citizens that is prohibited. [Source]