China's Xiaomi says its devices do not censor users' communications after Lithuania's Defence Ministry recommended that consumers avoid Chinese phones due to a censoring feature in the smartphone giant's flagship phone.
The censorship capability in Xiaomi's Mi 10T 5G software has been turned off for the European Union region but can be turned on remotely at any time, Lithuania's National Cyber Security Centre said in a report on Tuesday (local time).
In a statement sent to Reuters a day later, Xiaomi spokesman said its device "does not censor communications to or from its users".
"Xiaomi has never and will never restrict or block any personal behaviours of our smartphone users, such as searching, calling, web browsing or the use of third-party communication software," the statement said.
"Xiaomi fully respects and protects the legal rights of all users."
The Mi 10T is available to purchase in New Zealand. Xiaomi was approached by Newshub and provided the same statement sent to Reuters.
The National Cyber Centre's report also said the Xiaomi phone was sending encrypted phone usage data to a server in Singapore, which could be against European data regulations.
The Xiaomi spokesman said: "Xiaomi complies with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation."
Deputy Defence Minister Margiris Abukevicius told Reuters the ministry shared its report with cyber security officials from other European Union nations and the United States.
"Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible," Abukevicius told reporters in introducing the report.
According to the report, the terms potentially subject to censorship by the Xiaomi phone's system apps such as the default internet browser include "Free Tibet", "Long live Taiwan independence" and "democracy movement".
China demanded last month that Lithuania withdraw its ambassador in Beijing and said it would recall its envoy to Vilnius after Taiwan announced that its mission in Lithuania would be called the Taiwanese Representative Office.
Taiwanese missions in Europe and the United States use the name of the city Taipei, avoiding a reference to the island itself, which China claims as its own territory.
US President Joe Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan last week stressed support to Lithuania's prime minister Ingrida Simonyte in the face of pressure from China.