China snooping over 10,000 Indian nationals including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief ministers of different states, leaders of the opposition, judges, defence chiefs and even entrepreneurs. Credit: Representational Image

A major investigation reveals China snooping over 10,000 Indian nationals, including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief ministers of different states, leaders of the Opposition, judges, defence chiefs and even entrepreneurs.

In a two month-long investigation done by the Indian Express shows a Shenzen-based technology company with links to the Chinese government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party watching over Indian individuals and organisations in its global database of “foreign targets”.

The list reveals key individuals in key positions having a major influence on the Indian society. From the political diaspora, names that were revealed come from the top of the establishment; from President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi and their families; chief ministers Mamata Banerjee, Ashok Gehlot and Amarinder Singh to Uddhav Thackeray, Naveen Patnaik and Shivraj Singh Chouhan; cabinet ministers Rajnath Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad to Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, and Piyush Goyal.

China also had their eyes on the Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Singh Rawat to at least 15 former chiefs of the Army , Navy and Air Force; Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde and brother judge AM Khanwilkar to Lokpal Justice P C Ghose and Comptroller and Auditor General G C Murmu; start-up tech entrepreneurs like Nipun Mehra, founder of Bharat Pe (an Indian payment app), and Ajay Trehan of AuthBridge, an authentication technology firm, to top industrialists Ratan Tata and Gautam Adani.

Not just influential individuals in the political and official establishment, Indians being monitored cut across disciplines. They include bureaucrats in key positions; judges; scientists and academicians; journalists; actors and sportspersons; religious figures and activists. And even hundreds accused of financial crime, corruption, terrorism, and smuggling of narcotics, gold, arms or wildlife.

The Chinese-only website of Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co, the company that has been keeping an eye on the movement of Indian targets tracks the digital footprints of the subjects by monitoring social media platforms, maintains an “information library,” which includes content not just from news sources, forums, but also from papers, patents, bidding documents, even positions of recruitment. Along with it the the company also has developed a “relational database”, which keeps a trail of the associations between individuals, institution and information.

The investigation unveiled that company even had eyes on the relatives of such individuals under their purview. Prime Minister Modi’s wife Jashodaben, the President’s wife, family of former PM Manmohan Singh that includes his wife and two daughters, the Gandhi family at helm of Congress which also included records of decease Rajiv Gandhi. Families of Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Smriti Irani and Akhilesh Yadav are also under supervision.

The comprehensive list spied on by the Chinese regime also had news media included: N Ravi, chairman of the The Hindu Group; Zee News editor-in-chief Sudhir Chaudhary; India Today Group Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai; former media advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office Sanjaya Baru; and The Indian Express chief editor Raj Kamal Jha.

From the field of sports and culture, former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, film director Shyam Benegal, classical dancer Sonal Mansingh, former Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh, several bishops and Archbishops of churches, self-styled god-woman Radhe Maa (Sukhwinder Kaur); Bibi Jagir Kaur and Hardev Singh of Nirankari Mission were also looked in with interest by the Chinese company.

Robert Potter, a Canberra-based cyber security, tech and data expert who had verified the electronic antecedents of the Zhenhua data set, said to The Indian Express, “Every country does this in one way or the other, that’s the job of foreign intelligence. But using big data science and technology, Beijing has, clearly, taken it to the next level.”

“Just looking at the range of people they are getting information on shows that they are very serious about the strategic value of hybrid warfare. These are their information assets and tracking them on a continuous basis, their work, their families, their movements, their leadership roles, their organisations is invaluable data that can be leveraged in countless ways,” Potter added.

This revelation comes at a time when tensions along Line of Actual Control have escalated manifold with China pushing to change the status quo in Ladakh with the deployment of the People’s Liberation Army.

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