China warns state firms to avoid travel to US

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Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China's Foreign Ministry, speaks at a regular news conference in Beijing, China, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

(Reuters) – China has asked some of the state-run companies to avoid business trips to the United States and its allies, and to take extra care to protect their devices if they need to travel, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

The State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), which oversees about 100 government-run companies, has told some firms in recent weeks to only take secure, company-issued laptops meant for overseas use if travelling is necessary, according to a report citing people familiar with the request.

China’s travel advice also included warning on travelling to the other countries in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing pact – Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Bloomberg said.

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SASAC did not immediately respond to an emailed request for a comment.

At the centre of growing strains between China and the United States was the recent arrest of a top executive at Chinese technology giant Huawei in Canada at the request of US authorities.

The detention has raised concerns over a potential backlash on US firms operating in China, amid an already tense war between the two countries on the trade front.

China’s ties with Canada have also turned frosty since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer and “heiress” of Huawei.

China has warned of unspecified consequences unless Ms Meng was released, and has detained Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on unpaid leave from the embassy in Beijing, and Michael Spavor, a Canadian consultant, on suspicion of endangering state security.

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Beijing has not drawn a direct link between the detentions and the arrest of Ms Meng, wanted by US authorities for allegedly misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions. Western diplomats say the cases are a tit-for-tat reprisal.

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