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U.S. senators voice concern over Chinese access to intellectual property

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said on Tuesday they were concerned about what they described as China's efforts to gain access to sensitive U.S. technologies and intellectual property through Chinese companies with government ties.

Senator Richard Burr, the committee's Republican chairman, cited concerns about the spread of foreign technologies in the United States, which he called "counterintelligence and information security risks that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors."

"The focus of my concern today is China, and specifically Chinese telecoms (companies) like Huawei and ZTE that are widely understood to have extraordinary ties to the Chinese government," Burr said.

Senator Mark Warner, the committee's Democratic vice chairman, said he had similar concerns.

"I’m worried about the close relationship between the Chinese government and Chinese technology firms, particularly in the area of commercialization of our surveillance technology and efforts to shape telecommunications equipment markets," Warner said.

Both senators spoke at an annual hearing of the panel where leaders of U.S. spy agencies testify about worldwide threats.

Several U.S. lawmakers have been focusing recently on Chinese technology firms.

Last week, two other Republican senators - Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton - introduced legislation that would block the U.S. government from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment from Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] or ZTE Corp, citing concern the Chinese companies would use their access to spy on U.S. officials.

The companies did not return calls last week seeking comment on the legislation. In 2012, they were the subject of a U.S. investigation into whether their equipment provided an opportunity for foreign espionage and threatened critical U.S. infrastructure - something they have consistently denied.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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