As French President Jacques Chirac headed today to Wuhan, a major centre for French investment in China, on the second day of his state visit, Reporters Without Borders drew his attention to the fact that the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company EADS, whose co-CEO, Louis Gallois, is accompanying him, is on its way to becoming the main supplier of communications and surveillance equipment for the Beijing police during the 2008 Olympics.
"Like the French company Thalès, which did not hesitate to sell China antennae that enable increased jamming of foreign radio stations, EADS is signing contracts with the Chinese police that contain no safeguards," Reporters Without Borders said.
"The EADS equipment could be used for political repression before, during and after the Olympic Games," the press freedom organisation warned. "Beijing’s justification for the current crackdown on dissent is the need to ensure the games are safe. EADS is meanwhile trying to get a larger share of the Chinese security market, worth billions of euros. It is time the French authorities, who are shareholders in EADS, took a position on this."
In the light of recent UN reports that have highlighted the regular use of torture by the Chinese police as well as other issues, it is unacceptable that a European company should sell equipment to the Chinese security forces without any restrictions. The European Union should consider how to ban the sale of these products under the arms embargo imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
EADS’ projects seem to have the support of the French authorities, especially the interior ministry. David Skuli, the head of the departmental directorate for public security, spoke at a conference organised by EADS in Beijing in May 2005 on "Territorial Security and Security Measures during the Olympic Games."
EADS has already sold TETRA communications systems to the Beijing city government as part of the security preparations for the 2008 games. More than 30,000 police and municipal employees will be supplied with European equipment. EADS Secure Networks hopes to get a large part of the Olympic Games market, which is also being eyed by US corporations including the SAIC consortium, as well as Australian and Israeli companies.
EADS has been actively taking part in the Chinese Police Salon for the past two years, offering a global solution to Beijing’s security problems. Patrick Jourdan of EADS Defence and Communications Systems put things very clearly last year: "When concentrating on the 2008 Olympic Games, EADS has not intention of imposing its own ideas about security on the organisers. What our company wants to do is help the Chinese authorities to define and install their own security system."
EADS will also be prominent at the China International Exhibition on Police Equipment and Anti-Terrorism Technology (CIPATE) being held in Beijing in May 2007. According to the organisers, this event will enable the authorities to decide on security projects for the 2008 games.
The Chinese authorities are also being clear about their desire to ensure security for the Olympic Games. Public security minister Zhou Yongkang yesterday requested more resources in order to better control Chinese society.
At least 32 journalists and 52 cyber-dissidents and Internet users are currently imprisoned in China. A journalist was beaten to death by a policeman in the eastern province of Zhejiang in February.