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German spy warns firms 'easy prey' to espionage as Merkel visits China

Published on Jul 6, 2014 10:25 AM

BERLIN (REUTERS) - A German intelligence chief warned, as Chancellor Angela Merkel embarks on her latest visit to China, that some firms in Europe's biggest economy face a growing threat from industrial espionage by Chinese government agencies with huge resources.

"Many German Mittelstand companies are easy prey," Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the BfV domestic intelligence agency, told a Sunday newspaper, referring to the small and medium-sized family firms that are the backbone of the economy.

"They often don't really know what their crown jewels are or what the other side is interested in," he told Welt am Sonntag.

"They are up against very powerful adversaries. The Chinese technical intelligence agency alone has over 100,000 employees," Maassen said, in an excerpt of an interview to be published on Sunday, when Merkel begins her seventh trip to China.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the Urbanisation Forum, kicking off her visit to China, in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province on July 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
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