January 15, 2019 / 8:46 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-China warns state firms to avoid travel to U.S. - Bloomberg

(Adds details from company source)

BEIJING, Jan 15 (Reuters) - China has asked some of the country’s 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 on Tuesday.

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 the report here, 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.

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

One state-owned Chinese energy firm had recently tightened information technology security protocols for employees travelling to the United States, a company source told Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Some employees at the company were not allowed to take laptops on such trips and were ordered to delete all work-related data and information from their personal phones before travelling, the person said.

Approved business trips to the United States had not been cancelled, the person told Reuters.

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 U.S. authorities.

The detention has raised concerns over a potential backlash on U.S. 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 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.

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

On Monday, Canada’s foreign ministry updated its travel advisory for China to warn citizens about “the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

Reporting by Ryan Woo and Meng Meng in Beijing and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shu Zhang in Singapore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier, Rashmi Aich and Subhranshu Sahu

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