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Lawyers say US government is ‘willing to take the necessary legal steps’ to force China to give them access to sensitive US tech

The US government has expressed concern about a Chinese court ruling that could see Chinese authorities demand the extradition of a US tech company and its employees for alleged crimes, according to legal experts.

US tech firm Seo Technology has already been in a legal battle with the Chinese government over its use of an artificial intelligence system to analyse documents and the use of the same system to hack into government networks, which is considered a crime.

It is believed to have helped China to win a $1.8bn contract with US technology giant Cisco Systems to build a version of the system used by the government.

The company says it is concerned that the ruling could make it easier for Chinese authorities to arrest US technology employees.

But the US government’s role in such cases is largely limited. 

“There’s no indication that the Trump administration is looking to force a Chinese government order on China.

If the Chinese did, they’d get sued in the United States,” said Stephen Scudder, a former US defence intelligence official who is now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank. 

‘I think this is just the beginning’ “If you’re talking about the future of cybersecurity, this is the beginning of the next stage of what could be an unprecedented crackdown on US tech companies, and the end of the US as a global hub for innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said.

“The court decision in the Chinese court is part of the broader trend of Chinese authorities going after US tech firms.”‘

It’s a great step forward’ The ruling was handed down by a court in Beijing, according the company’s lawyer, who spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity. 

The court’s ruling means that Seo will have to comply with Beijing’s demand that it hand over all of its data to the Chinese state-run cyber security agency. 

China has said that it will not comply with the ruling because it does not want its citizens to be harmed by it. 

In a statement, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said it “cannot comply” with the order. 

Cisco, which has been a major supporter of the company in its legal battle, said it was disappointed by the ruling.

“We are disappointed in the court’s decision and are considering the appropriate legal options,” the company said. 

US technology firms have already been targeted in China in the past, with a US federal judge saying that Chinese government agents breached security at Cisco’s headquarters and stole confidential data in January. 

Some US tech experts said that if the ruling holds up, the court could open the door for more US companies to be targeted. 

But in a separate case, a US court last month ruled that a US company cannot be extradited to China, citing the case of American tech entrepreneur Evan Blass. 

There has also been concern in Washington that China could attempt to extradite American tech workers to face charges, in part because of the precedent set by the US Supreme Court ruling in Apple v. the FBI. 

However, the US is also facing a new challenge from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), which has accused Chinese officials of taking steps to undermine US cybersecurity and “violate US national security” by weakening US internet security. 

A report by the GAO said the Chinese security apparatus has been able to steal data, steal equipment and undermine US government systems. 

Meanwhile, China’s military and intelligence services have been working to create a cyber war against the US and other countries. 

As well as cracking the encryption that protects confidential data and communications, Chinese state media has repeatedly criticised Western firms for failing to crack its cyber attacks. 

Chinese government hackers have also sought to weaken the security of US technology companies by taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the US network. 

Seo is also the only US company to have had its operations frozen by the Chinese authorities.

The decision to ban the firm from the country comes just weeks after it was announced that China’s cybersecurity ministry had banned it from conducting research, including cybersecurity research, on its own territory. 

Last month, a senior Chinese intelligence official warned that the Chinese Communist Party was preparing to seize control of the internet. 

Read more: How to protect yourself and your business from cyber attacks