The telecoms giant is caught up in another spying scandal
Yet there have long been questions raised about the company, starting with the fact that Huawei’s founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, is a former senior technologist for the People’s Liberation Army. For years, Western counterintelligence has quietly warned about the company’s connections to the PLA and other Chinese security agencies.
Recently, those cautions have grown distinctly audible. Last February, the heads of the ‘big three’ US intelligence agencies warned Americans against buying Huawei phones, which they deemed a security risk. As FBI Director Christopher Wray explained, ‘We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values…It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.’
This fierce competition for uncounted billions of dollars in sales has a seamy side that reached headlines at the beginning of December, when Meng Wangzhou was arrested at Vancouver airport by Canadian authorities acting on a US warrant regarding allegations of fraud relating to dodging international sanctions on Iran.
Since the suspect is not just Huawei’s CFO but the daughter of the firm’s founder, Meng’s arrest instantly unleashed paroxysms of rage in Beijing. She was bailed out 10 days after her arrest, on a $10 million bond, leaving her free to wait in Vancouver, electronically monitored, for possible extradition to the United States.
Beijing continues to howl curses at Canada over the Meng case. Two Canadians were promptly arrested in China on nebulous charges of endangering national security, in obvious retaliation. This week, China’s ambassador to Ottawa lambasted Meng’s arrest as evidence of ‘Western egotism and white supremacy.’
But Beijing’s real rage is aimed at the United States for daring to push back on decades of rampant Chinese industrial espionage that has seriously harmed the American economy. Last year witnessed multiple arrests of Chinese nationals engaged in economically-motivated espionage against the United States, and the problem has grown so serious that in November the FBI and the Justice Department established an interagency working group to combat Beijing’s rampant theft of American intellectual property.
Moreover, China’s espionage problems involve more than America. All over the world, countries are growing weary of Beijing’s thievish habits when it comes to spying for commercial benefit. In Australia, Chinese intelligence operations have grown so aggressive – encompassing not just vast industrial theft but espionage and political influence operations – that Canberra’s head of domestic intelligence recently warned of ‘a real and potential existential threat to Australia’s security and sovereignty’ emanating from Beijing.
Pushback is going global now, and today brings news of a sensational arrest in Poland that threatens to expose just how deeply involved in international espionage Huawei really is. Two men are in custody on suspicion of spying for Beijing. One is a Polish national, identified as Piotr D, a former senior officer of his country’s Internal Security Agency (ABW) who in that position ‘had access to sensitive information including to an internal government communication system for the secret transmission of information to top officials.’ There are reports that Piotr was dismissed from ABW over corruption allegations.
The second suspect, identified as Weijing W, is a Chinese national and Huawei’s sales director for Poland; he is reported to have been involved in selling telecommunications products to Polish state entities. He has worked for Huawei in Poland since 2011, reportedly the same year that Piotr was dismissed from the ABW. The Polish suspect’s former position as deputy head of ABWs information security department gives rise to obvious counterintelligence questions in this case.
Warsaw’s bombshell spy case threatens to unravel nothing less than Huawei’s global enterprise. If a senior Huawei official has been involved in old-fashioned espionage – not just cyber-theft –in tandem with a former Polish senior intelligence officer, presumably against Warsaw, that’s difficult to explain away. Moreover, it would demonstrate that Huawei is exactly the front for Beijing’s spy agencies that Western counterspies have been warning about at rising volume levels. The commercial implications for the company – and China – would be catastrophic.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.