I have always been suspicious of television. I became convinced many years ago that the government eavesdropped on us through the screen. It was a conviction I shared with many reluctant listeners over the years. Did I believe it? I’m not sure if I did, but it did tend to silence small talk as well as limit my circle of friends.

Alas, my fears have proven themselves more lucid and likely than I could every imagine.

I am referring to Chinese mobile phones, of course. The fact that Chinese handsets can spy on us, and report back, if certain words and phrases are used, has prompted the Defence Ministry of Lithuania to advise its citizens to get rid of their Chinese devices.

According to Reuters, flagship phones sold in Europe by China’s smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp have a built-in ability to detect and censor terms such as “Free Tibet”, “Long live Taiwan independence” or “democracy movement”, Lithuania’s state-run cybersecurity body said on Tuesday. I find the phrases very off and unlikely, but that’s not the point.

The capability in Xiaomi’s Mi 10T 5G phone software had been turned off for the “European Union region”, but can be turned on remotely at any time, the Defence Ministry’s National Cyber Security Centre said in a report.

The latest news follows a diplomatic spat between the most populous Baltic state and China over recognition for Taiwan.

The European news headlines have been dominated by the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is standing down after 16 years. She has been applauded as a great leader, but in reality she has simply been better than the most likely alternatives. Her policies have been determined in reaction to events, rather than formed within a coherent programme. Sadly she will be missed, but not for the right reasons.

Goodness knows what happens next.

FILE PHOTO: Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania Reuters