NEWS OUTLETS call him “China’s Edward Snowden”. His fans worldwide call him “Brother Fu”—a tag now seen on T-shirts and in internet memes. Both labels are said to mortify Fu Xuedong, the shy Canadian-educated software engineer whose allegations about Chinese cyber-spying have been the summer surprise of 2024. Mr Fu has thrown this, the final year of Donald Trump’s second term, into turmoil with his allegation that China’s intelligence services, working with the country’s technology firms, have turned millions of cars in America, Europe and Asia into remote spying devices, letting Beijing track vehicles in real time, identify passengers with facial-recognition and even eavesdrop on them.
China denies the claims, which if confirmed would amount to the largest espionage operation in history. Yet the fury of its response sits uneasily with its talk of Mr Fu as a “fantasist” and “a historic liar”. A cyber-security specialist at an innovation laboratory in Shenzhen, he has now been on the run from Chinese agents for five weeks—the past four of which he has spent holed up in the American consulate in Istanbul, as diplomats and politicians wrangle over his fate. So far Mr Fu’s saga is one with no winners, but many losers—including some of the world’s largest firms and governments that have buckled at the first hint of Chinese anger.