Huawei calls on Western nations to show proof of security risk

Tech giant rejects accusations it is controlled by China's Communist Party or designs equipment to facilitate spying.

    A worker holds a sign promoting a sale for Huawei 5G internet services in Shenzhen, China on Tuesday [Andy Wong/AP]
    A worker holds a sign promoting a sale for Huawei 5G internet services in Shenzhen, China on Tuesday [Andy Wong/AP]

    The chairman of Huawei has challenged the United States and other governments to provide evidence for claims the Chinese tech giant is a security risk as the company launched a public relations effort to defuse fears that threaten its role in next-generation communications.

    Talking to reporters invited to Huawei Technologies Ltd's headquarters, Ken Hu complained on Tuesday that accusations against the biggest global maker of network equipment stem from "ideology and geopolitics". He warned that excluding Huawei from fifth-generation networks in Australia and other markets would hurt consumers by raising prices and slowing innovation.

    Australia and New Zealand have barred Huawei in 5G networks on security grounds. They joined the United States and Taiwan, which have broader curbs on Huawei. Japan's cybersecurity agency says suppliers including Huawei that are deemed high-risk will be excluded from government purchases.

    "If you have proof or evidence, it should be made known," said Hu. "Maybe not to Huawei and maybe not to the public, but to telecom operators, because they are the ones that buy Huawei."

    "Banning a particular company cannot resolve cybersecurity concerns," he said. "Huawei's record is clean."

    The lack of public evidence to support accusations against Huawei has prompted industry analysts to suggest they are an excuse to shield US or European competitors against the rise of a Chinese challenger.

    Booming sales

    The curbs have had little impact so far on Huawei, which says its global sales are on track to top $100bn this year. But the normally press-shy company's decision to hold Tuesday's event appeared to reflect growing concern the accusations could hurt it in an emerging 5G market that industry analysts say could be worth $20bn a year by 2022.

    Huawei, founded in 1987 by a former military engineer, rejects accusations that it is controlled by the ruling Communist Party or designs equipment to facilitate eavesdropping.

    But foreign officials cite a Chinese law that requires companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies and express concern telecom equipment suppliers might be required to modify products.

    The emergence of 5G has heightened those fears. The technology is meant to support a vast expansion of telecoms networks to connect self-driving cars, factory robots, medical devices and power plants. That has prompted governments increasingly to view telecom networks as strategic national assets.

    "There has never been any evidence that our equipment poses a security threat," said Hu. "We have never accepted requests from any government to damage the networks or business of any of our customers."

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    Blocking competitors

    Hu said the cost of installing 5G wireless base stations in Australia would be 15 to 40 percent higher without competition from Huawei, estimating that the total cost could be several billion dollars higher.

    "You can't make yourself more excellent by blocking competitors from the playing field," he said.

    Huawei suffered another setback when its chief financial officer was arrested on December 1 in Canada in connection with US accusations the company violated restrictions on sales of American technology to Iran.

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    SOURCE: News agencies