China denied accusations by two U.S. lawmakers that it hacked into congressional computers, saying Thursday that as a developing country it wasn't capable of sophisticated cybercrime.
"Is there any evidence? ... Do we have such advanced technology? Even I don't believe it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regularly scheduled news conference.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, a senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Wednesday that their office computers were hacked into by people working from China. Both lawmakers, longtime critics of China's human rights record, said the compromised computers had information regarding political dissidents.
Wolf said four of his computers were compromised beginning in 2006. Smith said two of the computers at his global human rights subcommittee were attacked in December 2006 and March 2007.
China has a thriving information technology industry and claims to have 221 million Internet users — equal to the U.S. as the most in the world.
Qin repeated previous denials that the government sponsors computer attacks overseas and said China also was a victim of cybercrime.
"I'd like to urge some people in the U.S. not to be paranoid," Qin said. "They should do more to contribute to mutual understanding, trust and friendship between the U.S. and China."
The lawmakers' allegations came as U.S. officials were investigating whether Chinese officials had secretly copied the contents of a government laptop during a visit to China last December by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and used the information to try to hack into Commerce Department computers.
China has also denied that it was involved in that incident, calling the charges groundless.
The Pentagon acknowledged last month at a closed House Intelligence committee meeting that its vast computer network is scanned or attacked by outsiders more than 300 million times each day.
Wolf said the FBI had told him that computers of other House members and at least one House committee had been accessed by sources working from inside China.
The FBI and the White House have declined to comment. The Bush administration has been increasingly reluctant to publicly discuss or acknowledge cyber attacks, especially ones traced to China.
The allegations are the latest in a series of cybersecurity problems blamed on China. Reports last year cited officials in Germany, the United States and Britain as saying government and military networks had been broken into by hackers backed by the Chinese military.