British MPs said on Thursday they found “clear evidence of collusion” between Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Beijing, and suggested the U.K. government may need to remove all Huawei equipment from mobile networks earlier than planned.
“It is clear that Huawei is strongly linked to the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party, despite its statements to the contrary,” a report from the House of Commons defence committee concluded, citing evidence that included government subsidies.
MPs on the committee said they support Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to purge Huawei from Britain’s telecommunications network by 2027, but noted that “developments could necessitate this date being moved forward, potentially to 2025, which could be considered economically feasible.”
Last week, the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre issued a report saying Huawei has failed to adequately resolve security flaws in the equipment the British telecom networks use.
In the House of Commons in Ottawa, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stop procrastinating and ban the Chinese telecom from participating in 5G networks in Canada, as other allies have done.
“His security experts are reading the reports out of the U.K. that found out that Huawei had been financed by the Chinese state to the tune of $75-billion in the last three years," Mr. O’Toole said. "It also found that Huawei had engaged in a variety of intelligence security and intellectual property violations around the world. Why is the Prime Minister ignoring all the warnings about Huawei in Canada’s 5G network?”
Mr. Trudeau said Ottawa is looking very carefully at the reports, but he gave no timeline for when the government would decide whether to allow Huawei to sell 5G equipment to Canadian telecoms.
All of Canada’s allies in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership – the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. – have banned or curbed Huawei’s participation in 5G.
“Four of the Five Eyes have spoken when it comes to Huawei. Why is the Prime Minister the only one with his eyes closed?” Mr. O’Toole said in the House.
Mr. Trudeau replied that Canada is still gathering information from its allies as part of a cybersecurity review of Huawei’s 5G technology.
The United States, Australia and former directors of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have warned that Huawei technology could be used to spy for China.
Chinese law requires companies to “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work” when requested by Beijing. Security experts in the United States, Australia and Canada say equipment from manufacturers such as Huawei could be compromised.
“Huawei’s apparent willingness to support China’s intelligence agencies and China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law are further cause for concern,” the British report said. “Having a company so closely tied to a state and political organization sometimes at odds with U.K. interests should be a point of concern and the decision to remove Huawei from our networks is further supported by these links.”
Huawei has repeatedly denied having ties to Beijing.
Ward Elcock, a former director of CSIS, said he doesn’t understand why telecommunications companies would use Huawei gear.
“The Chinese have very aggressive intelligence organizations and they are out there to collect information, and one of the ways you collect information in a world that has gone digital is you do it digital.”
Mr. Elcock said he understands, however, why Ottawa is reluctant to announce a ban.
He said the government clearly doesn’t want to be blamed for aggravating the plight of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians locked up in apparent retaliation for Ottawa’s arrest of a senior Huawei executive on a U.S. extradition request.
“The government is not trying to pick a fight with the Chinese any more than the fight it has already got, because there are two people in jail in China whom the Chinese are just going to hold forever if necessary.”
He said he would be surprised if Ottawa had not quietly told Canadian wireless companies they should abandon Huawei gear. “I would be a little surprised if people weren’t telling the communications companies, ‘This is probably not a smart thing.’”
On Thursday, the Shenzhen-based telecommunications giant said the British defence committee report lacked credibility.
“It is built on opinion rather than fact. We’re sure people will see through these groundless accusations of collusion and remember instead what Huawei has delivered for Britain over the past 20 years,” a Huawei spokesman told Reuters.
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence committee, said the West must advance a counterweight to China’s tech dominance, and warned of the dangers of surrendering "our national security for the sake of short-term technological development.”
With a report from Reuters
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