Huawei probe underlines US fears of China’s strategic threat

The arrest of a Huawei employee in Poland last week underscored the increasing pressure on the company in the US, Europe and elsewhere over espionage concerns (AFP pic)

VANCOUVER: A federal investigation into Huawei Technologies for allegedly stealing trade secrets from US companies follows a long history of wariness and suspicion toward the Chinese telecommunications giant.

It also adds to a case the US has been trying to make for years now: Huawei is a threat to national security.

The investigation – tied to civil suits filed in Washington state, including a 2014 case involving the theft of T-Mobile US technology – ratchets up pressure on a company already reeling.

Last month, at the behest of the US, Canadian authorities arrested Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on fraud charges linked to Iran trade-sanction violations.

US officials and industry executives have long harboured questions about Huawei’s ties to China’s government, and concerns about its technology have mounted in lockstep with its growing success. China’s rise as an economic and military competitor to the US has only intensified those worries.

‘Hysteria’

She also blasted US legislators for proposals to block sales of American components to Chinese telecom companies, saying it amounted to “hysteria.”

“The whole world is quite clear that the US is using national machinery to suppress China’s high-tech companies,” Hua said. “This is not what the No. 1 world power should do.”

The arrest of a Huawei employee in Poland last week underscored the increasing pressure on the company in the US, Europe and elsewhere over espionage concerns. In 2012, congressional committees and other US government entities criticized Huawei’s “pattern of disregard for the intellectual property rights of other entities and companies in the US”

Earlier this week, Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei broke years of silence to dismiss US accusations that the company helps spy for China’s government. He also praised Trump for helping business by cutting taxes, and called Huawei “only a sesame seed” in the wider US-China trade fight.

‘Tappy’

The US probe into Huawei includes allegations by T-Mobile in a 2014 lawsuit that it stole information, according to the person familiar with the matter.

According to T-Mobile, one of Huawei’s engineers visited its Bellevue, Washington, lab to see a diagnostic robot called “Tappy,” which simulated a phone user’s use. T-Mobile alleged a Huawei engineer slipped one of the robots into his laptop bag during the visit and left with it.

The jury sided with T-Mobile in 2017, saying the theft resulted in Huawei making “hundreds of millions of dollars” from T-Mobile’s technology. It found that Huawei misappropriated T-Mobile’s trade secrets and breached a supply contract between the two companies, saying T-Mobile should get US$4.8 million in damages.