A security guard from China‚??s Uighur ethnic group sits before a picture of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, inside a newly opened e-commerce headquarters and trading center near Kashgar on July 22. / Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY
BEIJING - Government investigators visited Microsoft offices in four Chinese cities Monday, according to a company spokeswoman.
Microsoft, like other U.S. technology giants in recent months, has been under fire from Chinese media for its perceived role in helping the U.S government conduct cyberhacking against China.
Investigators from China's State Administration for Industry & Commerce (SAIC) - the nation's main business authorities - visited Microsoft offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu. Microsoft said the purpose of the visit was to begin an official investigation. It did not elaborate further.
"We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the government may have," Microsoft spokesman David Cuddy said in a statement.
Microsoft China spokeswoman Joan Li said the company would "actively cooperate" with the government, reported the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based newspaper.
The SAIC also provided no further detail about the investigation.
Microsoft enjoys huge sales in China, but like many Western companies, has also suffered attacks by state media, which have fanned nationalist sentiment against the adoption of U.S. technology following Edward Snowden's revelations about U.S. government cyberspying.
In May, Beijing announced that central government offices were banned from installing Windows 8, Microsoft's latest operating system, on new computers. Soon after, China's state broadcaster, CCTV, ran a critical program suggesting that Windows 8 was being used to seize information on Mainland citizens.
This month, CCTV called Apple's iPhone a threat to national security because of the smartphone's "Frequent Locations" function that can track and time-stamp the user's location.
Separately, Fang Xingdong, an Internet and blogging pioneer, in the Global Times tabloid Monday, urged Chinese Communist Party, government and military officials to stop using Apple cellphones.
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