- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2008

American business executives visiting Beijing for the Olympics should leave their laptops at home and “assume all electronic communications are monitored,” according to a briefing prepared by a U.S. State Department advisory panel.

The briefing also says that U.S. businesses and individuals could be the target of violent Chinese nationalist protests and that traveling around the capital while its mass-transit system strains to cope with the extra riders will likely prove a “logistical challenge.”

The briefing was prepared by the Overseas Security Advisory Council, or OSAC, a partnership between the State Department and the private sector, which provides security advice for U.S. businesses operating abroad.

In a webcast and written briefing documents, details of which were obtained by UPI from private-sector sources, OSAC assesses the potential threats faced by U.S. corporate visitors to the games.

With the Olympics due to begin in just over a week, controls and manipulation of computers and other electronic devices have become a major issue.

Chinese officials have blocked Internet sites in the main press center and venues where reporters will work, especially sites that feature political and human rights information the government dislikes, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Sites such as Amnesty International’s or any search for a site with Tibet in the address could not be opened at the main press center, which will house about 5,000 print journalists when the games open Aug. 8, the AP reported from Beijing.

The OSAC briefing says that several Chinese security agencies - including local police, a national paramilitary force and hundreds of thousands of volunteers - will have an “overwhelming security presence” in Beijing, especially in the area of the Olympic venues.

The briefing, first reported by USA Today, says this will likely reduce crime and cancel out the usual increase in petty crimes like theft associated with large urban events.

But both the British and German authorities have warned this year of aggressive corporate and economic espionage efforts by the Chinese, and the briefing warns that the Olympics will present a target-rich environment for those activities.

“The large numbers of corporate employees and VIPs together in a festival-like setting offer would-be information thieves a unique opportunity to illicitly obtain trade secrets and proprietary information,” the briefing cautions.

Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington were not immediately available for comment.

One private computer-security specialist said economic espionage is already a common peril faced by international business travelers.

“We haven´t seen any evidence that the Chinese government is any more aggressive in this regard than many other countries,” Alan Komet, vice president of marketing for the Israeli computer-security company Promisec, told UPI.

In a related development, Amnesty International released a report Tuesday accusing China of failing to improve its human rights record ahead of the Olympics.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao rejected the report and urged the human rights group to “take off the tinted glasses it has worn for many years and see China in an objective way,” the AP reported from Hong Kong.

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