China’s Telco Huawei Lobbies Hard to Allay Australia’s Security Concerns

June 27, 2018 Updated: June 27, 2018

SYDNEY—The chairman of China’s telecom firm Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s Australian office said on June 27 that the company’s network equipment is “safe and secure,” ramping up the company’s public lobbying against concerns that its links to the Chinese Communist Party’s intelligence services pose a security risk.

Australia is likely to bar Huawei from participating in a 5G mobile telecommunications roll-out as it fears the company is de facto controlled by Beijing and sensitive infrastructure will be vulnerable to eavesdropping, according to Australian media reports.

But John Lord, chairman of Huawei’s Australian unit, told Australian Associated Press that he believes “banning Huawei will not make the Australian telecom ecosystem safer” and that a ban would “have a huge impact on the industry and the prices and services Australians receive.”

“It will be a great policy failure and demonstrate to the world that we are not ready for the new reality of a smart and innovative China,” said Lord who was a former Rear Admiral in the Australian Navy.

The spat between Huawei and Australia’s security agencies lands amid a low in diplomatic relations between the ruling Chinese Communist Party and the Australian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

In December 2017, Turnbull acknowledged warnings from Australia’s intelligence community that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was working to influence Australian politics.

Turnbull told the Australian public that foreign powers were making “unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process.”

In response, Australia has just passed foreign interference laws designed, amongst other things, to limit the CCP’s influence in Australia’s domestic affairs.

Reports emerged on Tuesday that Huawei has been the top corporate sponsor of international trips for Australian federal politicians.

Turnbull said on June 27 his government was still mulling Huawei’s role in the country’s nascent 5G network.

“We’ll continue to consider that and get the best advice on that from our national security agencies,” he said.

Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications network equipment and the No. 3 smartphone supplier, has already been virtually shut out from the giant U.S. market because of national security concerns.

It was blocked on security grounds from supplying equipment to Australia’s new broadband network and Australia this month promised hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure Huawei did not build an internet cable between Australia and the Solomon Islands.

The telecommunications company was targeted by a U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report, which was released in April, that said the company has extensive ties with the Chinese Communist Party. Ren Zhengfei, the founder of the company, was a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). He continues to run the company today.

Australian intelligence agencies had warned that there was “credible evidence” that Huawei was connected to the Third Department of the PLA—an arm of the Chinese military’s cyber-espionage network, according to Professor Clive Hamilton, the author of the book Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia.

Hamilton says in his book that Huawei has spent time creating a public image of trustworthiness by setting up an Australian board as a front: “Although it is not a state-owned company, it would be naive in the extreme to believe a company that with government support turned itself into the world’s second-biggest telecommunications equipment maker … did not have daily links with China’s intelligence services.”

Huawei’s 5G technology has already been rolled out in Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

By Tom Westbrook. Additional reporting by NTD Reporter Janita Kan

 

 

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