China using US-made satellites to boost its police and military power and quash protests in Tibet and Xinjiang, report says

  • Beijing’s Ministry of State Security said to have used equipment to deal with anti-government protests by minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang

  • The satellite also provided communications services to China’s military as it built permanent installations on contested islands and reefs in the South China Sea

Agence France-Presse | Published: 24 Apr 2019
A Space X Falcon 9 rocket carrying the AsiaSat 8 satellite lifts off in August 2014. Photo: AP

A fleet of US-made satellites helps China’s government police its people and supports its military despite growing wariness in Washington over Beijing’s power, it has emerged.

While the United States will not let China buy US-made satellites for national security reasons, it sells them to partly Chinese-controlled, Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Communications, which then leases out capacity to Chinese and other customers, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Under that arrangement, China’s Ministry of State Security, which oversees domestic and international intelligence gathering, has used the US-built satellites for communications in emergencies, including dealing with anti-government protests by minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2008-2009, the Journal reported.

And beginning in 2013, a Chinese state telecommunications firm used capacity on an AsiaSat satellite to provide mobile and internet services to China’s military as it built permanent installations on contested islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

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Washington does not recognise China’s territorial claim to those installations, which have effectively extended China’s military reach far from the mainland.

AsiaSat is jointly controlled by China’s huge government-backed investment bank Citic Group and US investment bank Carlyle Group.

The three-decades-old, publicly listed company, has launched a total of nine satellites, made by US aeronautics and space firms Boeing and SSL.

A man walks past an illustration showing various Long March space rockets and satellites on exhibit at a local Beijing park in October 2005. Photo: AP

AsiaSat told The Journal that China’s military had used the satellite services via telecoms operators that held bandwidth for disaster relief.

Carlyle, which has strong ties to the US political and security establishment, said that AsiaSat customers are Chinese phone and internet companies, who have their own customers.

The report came amid stepped-up US concern over China’s efforts to obtain, legally or illegally, US technology that it cannot match itself.

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China especially trails the US in satellite technology, The Journal said.


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