China has lashed out at Britain’s new national security laws after a deal to share robot camera technology was blocked by the Business Department.
The Chinese embassy warned against “discriminatory practices” and called for “fairness and transparency” in the new laws, which are designed to protect against transfers of critical technology to foreign rivals.
The remarks come after the Government used the National Security and Investment Act legislation to block the University of Manchester from sharing camera technology with China’s Beijing Infinite Vision Technology Company.
It marked ministers’ first intervention under the act, which was introduced in January, to combat concerns that vital technology developed in the UK was being quietly transferred overseas.
The intellectual property, known as Scamp-5 and Scamp-7 and developed by the University of Manchester’s Innovation Factory, can be embedded into devices such as toys or drones to allow their cameras to process images more quickly.
A funding proposal for the technology said it would “enable the next generation of autonomous robots”.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, concluded the camera technology could be used to build defense or technological capabilities which may present national security risk.
The University of Manchester said it would abide by the decision.
However, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy, when asked about the deal, said: “It must be pointed out that the government of any country needs to safeguard its own national security. The problem is to uphold fairness and transparency, and not to adopt discriminatory practices.
“Any misuse of national security reviews will harm the UK’s investment climate and long-term interests.”
The embassy said it declined to comment on specific deals.
Mr Kwarteng has also called in the takeover of Britain’s biggest microchip factory, Newport Wafer Fab in Wales, which has been acquired by a Chinese-owned company.
The Government said in June that it had been alerted about 222 takeovers that fell under the scope of the security bill and had called in 17 for further investigation.
The rules give it power to block sensitive deals in sectors including robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, nuclear and military technology. The Business Department did not respond to a request for comment.