Dutch athletes set to travel to China for the winter Olympics have been banned from taking their own laptops and mobile phones with them amid spying fears.
The Dutch Olympic Committee (NOCNSF) issued the rules amid fears that the Chinese government might eavesdrop on the athletes and this would affect their privacy.
It is reportedly the first time that the sports umbrella organisation has taken such far-reaching precautions, with Maurits Hendriks, the technical director of the NOCNSF, refusing to go into specifics about the measures to protect the athletes.
China is turning off its Internet censorship, known as the Great Firewall, for the athletes so that they can use social media programs such as WhatsApp, but experts warn that the authorities will be monitoring such apps.
The NOCNSF was reportedly briefed two months ago by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) and intelligence service AIVD about the situation in China.
Hendriks said: “That is usual. In doing so, we zoom in very closely on the security situation in a country, on the political context, but also on cybersecurity.”
Australian security experts warned in December that athletes going to Beijing should be aware of extensive Chinese espionage. Phones belonging to Dutch officials and diplomats who have been to China have systematically been destroyed immediately upon their return for years.
From 2018 to 2020, former Olympic speed skating champion Bob de Jong also worked in China. He reportedly felt watched and understands the caution of the Dutch for the Games in Beijing. He has no doubts about the intentions of the Chinese. He said: “They’re definitely going to spy.”