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Someone finally outright accused Huawei of collusion with the Chinese state

October 8, 2020, 10:25 AM UTC

The U.K. Parliament’s Defence Committee has outright accused Huawei of colluding with Chinese authorities—a step beyond the usual mistrust displayed by Western authorities.

The U.S. has already said the Chinese telecoms-equipment giant maintains access to its products that could enable spying. And the U.K.’s looming ban on Huawei’s participation in its 5G networks was justified by potential security problems—albeit as a result of U.S. sanctions on Huawei, rather than nefarious intent.

U.S. intelligence has also raised concerns about Huawei’s funding—allegedly by Chinese state security. But until Thursday, no Western officials had gone so far as to accuse Huawei of actively colluding with Beijing, as opposed to merely being susceptible to Beijing’s invasive spying laws.

“Concern about Huawei is based on clear evidence of collusion between the company and the Chinese Communist Party apparatus,” said the U.K. Parliament’s Defence Committee in a long-awaited report The Security of 5G, which was published Thursday morning. The report did not provide any actual details of this evidence.

Huawei responded to the committee’s allegation by saying the report was “built on opinion rather than fact” and calling the collusion accusation “groundless.”

The committee made the point while urging the West not to “succumb to ill-informed anti-China hysteria” and to recognize the “mutual benefits” of Chinese involvement in Western economies.

“The U.K., and allies, should ensure that decisions taken around the involvement of Chinese companies are taken in an evidence-based manner, and only when risk is demonstrable should decisions around removal be made,” it said.

The U.K.’s own decision around removal was made in July, when the government said British telecoms operators would have to stop buying new 5G equipment from Huawei by the end of this year and to rip out and replace all their existing Huawei 5G gear by 2027.

On Thursday, Parliament’s Defence Committee said the 2027 target was “sensible” but the government should look into the feasibility of getting rid of all Huawei 5G equipment two years earlier.

Remarkably, it also argued that the British government should have ordered the removal before it did, based not on technical concerns—U.S. sanctions are forcing Huawei to reengineer many of its products, which will likely cause security and reliability problems—but rather because the U.S. and Australia, key intelligence-sharing partners to the U.K., had already issued Huawei bans.

“The Government should have considered the potential damage to key alliances enough of a risk to begin to remove Huawei from the UK’s 5G network before the U.S. sanctions were imposed,” the committee’s report recommended.

“The West must urgently unite to advance a counterweight to China’s tech dominance,” said committee chair Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative parliamentarian, on the report’s release.

“As every aspect of our lives becomes increasingly reliant on access to data movement we must develop a feasible, practical and cost-effective alternative to the cheap, high-tech solutions which can be preyed upon and which come stooped with conditions which ensnare a state into long-term allegiance to China.”