Citing security concerns, Lithuania bans Chinese airport baggage scanners

Vilnius International AirportCITING NATIONAL SECURITY GROUNDS, the government of Lithuania has canceled an agreement with a Chinese-owned company to supply baggage-scanning equipment at airports across the Baltic country. The Beijing-based company, Nuctech, is owned by Tsinghua Tongfang, which is in turn controlled by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). Tasked with managing China’s nuclear fuel supply and development program, CNCC is owned by the Chinese government.

Since its founding in 1997, Nuctech has become a major supplier of security-screening products and equipment in airports in Asia, Europe and Africa. Early in 2020, the company was awarded a competitive bid to install baggage-scanning equipment at several major Lithuanian airports, including those in Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga. But in January of this year, it was reported that the United States government had approach several European governments with the aim of convincing them to drop Nuctech on security grounds. The Americans were claiming that passenger data collected by Nuctech could potentially be shared with the Chinese intelligence services, under a 2017 law that obligates state-owned companies to contribute to national intelligence gathering.

On Wednesday, following a closed-door meeting of the Lithuanian cabinet, a spokesman for the prime minister’s office announced that the government had “decided that the contract [with Nuctech] does not meet the interests of national security”. Earlier on Wednesday, a local news agency had quoted the United States ambassador to Lithuania, Robert Gilchrist, as saying that Washington welcomed the fact that Lithuania was reconsidering Nuctech’s role in airport security. Late on Wednesday, a Nuctech representative said the company failed to understand the Lithuanian government’s reasoning for canceling the agreement, since the scanning equipment used in Lithuanian airports would be manufactured in Poland, rather than in China.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 February 2021 | Permalink