China blasts Trump phone hack report as ‘fake news’

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Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China’s Foreign Ministry, speaks at a regular news conference in Beijing, China, January 6, 2016. China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Beijing did not have advance knowledge of North Korea’s test of a miniaturized hydrogen nuclear device, adding that it firmly opposes Pyongyang’s action. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Beijing on Thursday dismissed a New York Times report that alleged Chinese intelligence eavesdropped on Donald Trump’s cellphone calls as “fake news” and joked the US president should switch to a Chinese phone.

The newspaper cited anonymous officials who said China and Russia had listened in to Trump’s frequent phone calls with friends and allies made over his iPhone, using the information gleaned to shape interactions with the US.

When asked about the report at a regular news briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said “certain people in the US are sparing no efforts to win the best screenplay award at the Oscars”.

Hua offered three recommendations to the US daily and the Trump administration.

“First The New York Times should know if they publish this type of report it provides another piece of evidence of The New York Times making fake news,” she said, using one of Trump’s favourite tactics to disparage unflattering articles.

“Second if they are worried about Apple phones being listened in on, they should swap them with Huawei phones,” Hua said, referring to one of China’s largest telecommunications firms, which has been largely blocked from the US market over national security concerns.

Lastly, Hua recommended “they should stop using any modern communication equipment and cut off contact with the outside” if they want to ensure absolute security.

Russia, too, dismissed the eavesdropping allegations.

“We already treat these sort of stories with a certain humour,” said presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“We regret this newspaper unthinkingly publishes information which most likely indicates a decline in journalistic standards.”

The Times’ report on Wednesday provided few details on how China and Russia were monitoring Trump’s communications aside from noting the calls were intercepted as they travel through the US cellphone network.