Cybersecurity experts warn China’s Communist Party ‘can spy on citizens’ through its free news and messaging app which has been downloaded by more than 100million people

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping’s  app ‘Study (Xi) Strong Country’ could be spying 
  • It allows users to read Chinese state media, video chat and send virtual gifts 
  • German cyber security team Cure 53 found the app had ‘hidden’ monitoring

A mobile app promoting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ideology is thought to have been spying on 100 million Chinese citizens who downloaded the smartphone software. 

The app, which is almost like a Facebook for Communist supporters, was made mandatory for all 90 million communist party members to download and read everyday.

It allows users to read reports from Chinese state media, carry out video chats and send virtual gifts to friends.

A mobile app promoting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ideology became the most downloaded smartphone software in the country after its release in January

Its main function was thought to be the promotion of Xi Jinping Thought, the ideology of the most powerful leader of China since Chairman Mao, but now it has been revealed to be capable of spying on its users’ activity. 

Released by China’s central propaganda department on January 1, the app is called ‘Study (Xi) Strong Country’ (学习强国), which is a witty wordplay as President Xi’s family name can also mean ‘study’ in Chinese. 

Analysis by German cyber security team Cure 53 found the app had ‘hidden’ monitoring functions and gave officials ‘super-user’ access.

Pictured, President Xi speaks to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on December 10, 2018, in Beijing

The Chinese government has denied claims that the app is being used for monitoring purposes.

Many citizens have had wages ‘tied’ to the app making it a compulsory download, reports The BBC. 

While journalists from the country are required to download the app and complete a quiz on President Xi in order to receive a press pass via the app.

The Communist app has also been billed as the modern-day equivalent to the ‘Little Red Book’, a pocket-sized booklet with Chairman Mao’s philosophy and a must-have item for Chinese people in the 1960s and 1970s.

It is estimated that more than one billion copies of Chairman Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’ were circulated during China’s Cultural Revolution, making it the second-most printed book in the world after the Bible.

The app has also been billed as the modern-day equivalent to the ‘Little Red Book’ (right), a booklet with Chairman Mao’s (left) philosophy and a must-have item in China in the 1970s

In a lengthy report Cure53 ‘proved’ one case of a clear human rights violation (HRV) by the ‘Study the Great Nation’ app.

The report read: ‘The Cure53 team finds it evident and undeniable that the examined application is capable of collecting and managing vast amounts of very specific data.

‘It is certain that the gathered material can become a basis for further actions concerning a specific group (or groups) of citizens.’ 

Along with the mobile software, a website of the same name was also launched on January 1

A chart released by statistical consulting firm Qimai earlier this year shows ‘Study (Xi) Strong Country’ (green) topping the download chart for free iPhone apps for more than a month while video app Douyin (red) and podcast app Ximalaya take the second and third spot

Although the experts say the collection of such meta-data and device information could be legitimate if it was being used for software improvement they question why it would be needed for an ‘educational’ app.

Adding: ‘The arguably intentional use of weak encryption in the code which appears to be related to biometric data and email encryption cannot be set aside as any sort of requirement of education-driven goals.

‘According to the European Convention on Human Rights, which stands among other examples of agendas and corresponds to related court rulings, the above practice can be considered a violation of human rights. ‘

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