Is my car bugged?
This isn’t a question that someone in most Western countries finds themselves asking, however on returning home from a visit to a military base in Hong Kong my wife thought I should make sure.
I’ll explain why…
On Wednesday the Hong Kong Garrison of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held open days at two of its bases – Stonecutters Island Naval Base and Shek Kong Air Base. The PLA usually hosts such events once a year, so nothing odd about that.
You always have to credit the PLA for being organised and security conscious. After all, I have had ‘plain clothes soldiers’ follow me around on previous occasions to make sure the foreigner isn’t getting up to any mischief, and phone calls to confirm that I have indeed left the premises before the event closed.
However, this year seemed a bit disorganised. My car got waved through security and so I coasted to a sedate stop in the carpark. I was then told there was a mistake and that I should drive out the front gate and go back in again.
And, oh yes, a female PLA officer would sit in the back seat of my car to make sure everything was okay.
After returning home, my wife immediately saw the ‘real’ reason for this. ‘You’re so silly. Now your car’s bugged!’ she exclaimed.
Is such paranoia over the top? Living in China, and in recent times in Hong Kong, perhaps not.
Of course, the PLA already has a top secret electronic listening post atop Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest mountain. The PLA refuses to say what the installation does.
On the very same day that I chauffeured the PLA officer in my car, China introduced its controversial national security law. This legislation covers far more than one would expect of traditional internal security, as it encompasses ideology, religion, finance, cybersecurity, politics and the military.
National security is defined as ensuring the political regime, sovereignty, national unification, territorial integrity, people’s welfare and the ‘sustainable and healthy development’ of the economy and society. Some might call this neo-totalitarian.
Xinhua explained earlier: ‘The draft law called for reinforced education and dissemination of socialist core values, to prevent the infiltration of harmful moral standards.’
Am I paranoid?
Let me know. In the meantime, I’m just going out to give my car a careful clean…on the inside.