China attacks national security law after robot camera deal blocked
China has lashed out at Britain’s new national security laws after a deal to share robotic camera technology was blocked by the Business Department.
The Chinese embassy warned against “discriminatory practices” and called for “fairness and transparency” in the new laws, which aim to protect against transfers of critical technology to foreign rivals.
The remarks come after the government used National Security and Investment Act legislation to prevent the University of Manchester from sharing camera technology with Chinese firm Beijing Infinite Vision Technology Company.
It was the first action by ministers under the law, which was introduced in January, to tackle concerns that vital technology developed in the UK was being quietly transferred overseas.
The intellectual property, known as Scamp-5 and Scamp-7 and developed by Manchester University’s Innovation Factory, can be incorporated into devices such as toys or drones to allow their cameras to process images faster.
A funding proposal for the technology said it would “enable the next generation of autonomous robots”.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, concluded that camera technology could be used to boost defense or technological capabilities that could pose a national security risk.
The University of Manchester said it would respect the decision.
However, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy, when asked about the deal, said: “It should be emphasized that the government of any country must protect its own national security. The problem is to maintain fairness and transparency, not to adopt discriminatory practices.
“Any misuse of national security reviews will harm the UK’s investment climate and long-term interests.”
The embassy said it declined to comment on specific agreements.
Mr Kwarteng also called for the takeover of Britain’s largest microchip factory, Newport Wafer Fab in Wales, which was acquired by a Chinese company.
The government said in June it had been alerted to 222 takeovers that fell within the scope of the security bill and called 17 for further investigation.
The rules give him the power to block sensitive transactions in sectors such as robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, nuclear and military technology. The commercial department did not respond to a request for comment.