Huawei, China’s telecom juggernaut, is facing growing scrutiny over espionage concerns in the United States and will likely be locked out from bidding on a critical new government computer network in Canada.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) wouldn’t directly speak to any concerns about Huawei during a press conference Tuesday, but noted that Shared Services Canada, a new department that will take control of federal government email and telecommunications and data services, has invoked a national security exception for the construction of Huawei’s network.
Our Government has put in place a Cyber Security Strategy designed to defend against electronic threats, hacking, and cyber espionage.
— Shared Services Canada
The exception means construction of the network will not be subject to bidding requirements imposed on government contracts by trade agreements.
“The government is going to be choosing carefully the construction of this network,” Andrew MacDougall, the director of communications for the PMO, told reporters.
“I will leave it to you to think if Huawei should be a part of a Canadian government security system.”
Shared Services Canada issued a statement saying the government takes cyber security seriously and was operating on the advice of security experts.
“Our Government has put in place a Cyber Security Strategy designed to defend against electronic threats, hacking and cyber espionage,” said the statement.
Shared Services would also not comment on any particular equipment supplier.
On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issued a report that raised concerns Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom provider ZTE were involved in espionage work.
“Huawei, in particular, provided evasive, nonresponsive, or incomplete answers to questions at the heart of the security issues posed. The failure of these companies to provide responsive answers about their relationships with and support by the Chinese government provides further doubt as to their ability to abide by international rules,” said the report.
It recommended the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States block mergers and acquisitions by Huawei and ZTE in the U.S., and that the government refrain from using equipment from those companies for its systems.
The report also urged the private sector to seek other vendors for telecommunications products.
The U.S. has faced near constant cyber attacks from China in recent months. Canada faced cyber attacks believed to have originated in China targeting several departments in early 2011.
Mike Rogers, chairman of the intelligence committee, told CBC that Canada was equally at risk from Chinese cyber attacks.
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