National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden claims the United States has been mounting a massive hacking operation against China since 2009.
The 29-year-old former government contractor who has fled to Hong Kong told the South China Morning Post that in addition to secretly collecting phone and Internet data from American citizens, the agency has been collecting information from computers in both Hong Kong and mainland China.
"We hack network backbones — like huge Internet routers, basically — that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” Snowden explained.
The newspaper said Snowden showed it “unverified documents” describing the extensive US campaign, which he said included more than 61,000 hacking operations on Chinese officials, universities and businesses.
According to the Guardian, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded "it was not aware of the hacking claims and could not comment directly." However, Psaki warned that type of surveillance is not the same as recent alleged Chinese cyber attacks in the US:
"There is a difference between going after economic data and the issues of surveillance that the president has addressed which are about trying to stop people doing us harm."
More from GlobalPost: Edward Snowden will fight extradition
Meanwhile, Snowden said he will fight against any attempts by the United States government to extradite him home.
The 29-year-old told the South China Morning Post: "I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality."
So far, Washington has not formally processed an extradition request, though many experts anticipate legal action.
If Snowden's allegations are true, they would confirm Beijing's longtime accusation that the US has been hacking its databases and thwart US attempts to stop China's own cyber-security attacks on American interests.