China has denied claims that it bugged the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

China had paid for and built the headquarters for the African Union in 2012, and cost $200 million.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, data from computers in the Chinese-built building had been transferred nightly to Chinese servers for five years.

The hack was reportedly discovered in 2017, and microphones were also found hidden in desks and the walls. The entire building IT’s system was changed after.

China’s ambassador to the AU, Kuang Weilin, called the article “ridiculous and preposterous” and said its publication was intended to put pressure on relations between Beijing and the continent. “China-Africa relations have brought about benefits and a lot of opportunities. Africans are happy with it. Others are not.”

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Asked who he referred to, he said: “People in the west. They are not used to it and they are simply not comfortable with this.“

Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president who assumed the AU chairmanship this year, said he did not know anything about it. “But, in any case, I don’t think there is anything done here that we would not like people to know,” he said after a meeting of African heads of state.

“I don’t think spying is the speciality of the Chinese. We have spies all over the place in this world,” Kagame said. “But I will not have been worried about being spied on in this building.”

His only concern, he said, was that the AU, instead of China, should have built the headquarters. “I would only have wished that in Africa we had got our act together earlier on. We should have been able to build our own building.”