Huawei Ties in Poland: Is the Telco Giant a Safe Business Partner?

February 20, 2019 Updated: February 20, 2019

Polish authorities arrested the sales director of Huawei’s Polish branch, Weijing W., and a former security official, Piotr D., on Jan. 8 and charged them with espionage. The two men will be held for three months and they could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Poland is a strategic country in the Central-East European market for Huawei and the gateway for further expansion into Europe. The arrest of Weijing W. is a blow to the company’s image.

Who Are the Two Men Accused of Spying?

Piotr D. held prominent roles in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration (MIAA), Internal Security Agency and the Office of Electronic Communications. Recently, he was working for Orange, one of the biggest telecommunication companies in Poland.

According to a report by Polish media Computerworld.pl, Piotr D. was the deputy director of the Department of Teleinformatic Security and the adviser to the-then head of the Internal Security Agency, General Krzysztof Bondaryk. In that role, he had access to highly confidential information about government personnel. He is also the author of numerous analyses and expertise assessments in the field of information and communication projects in the public administration.

According to a report by Computerworld.pl, Weijing W. is also known by the Polish name “Stanisław” or “Staszek W.” He finished Polish studies at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. During his studies, he obtained a one year scholarship in Poland. In 2006, he passed the diplomatic and consular exam and began working for the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in the Polish city of Gdańsk. Weijing W. was responsible for the supervision of the diplomatic protocol and international relations, especially for economic diplomacy. In 2011, he returned to China and joined Huawei in Beijing as a public relations manager. His role was to manage the external relations and contact between the embassies. In the same year, he was appointed as the director of communication and external relations of Huawei’s Polish branch. Then in 2017, he became the sales director of the company.

Ties With Poland’s Military University of Technology

“Stanislaw” Weijing W. repeatedly visited the Military University of Technology in Warsaw (MUTW, Polish: Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna—WAT), and also the Institute of Computer and Information Systems (ICIS, Polish: Instytut Systemów Informatycznych—ISI), where Piotr D. was employed. On May 28, 2015, the Military University of Technology hosted a visit by Huawei representatives, and among those who attended was “Stanislaw” Weijing W. Discussions were based on information exchange between MUTW and Huawei, and student participation in competitions organized by Huawei in the development of new technology.

Not long after this meeting, the representatives of ICIS—Maciej Kiedrowicz and Mariusz Chmielewski—were invited by Huawei’s Polish branch to attend the Global Mobile Broadband Forum in Nov. 2015. The conference centered on the issues related to the safety of the construction of the 5G network and the perspectives of the wired and wireless networks.

Then the MUTW representatives were invited to Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen. MUTW’s website posted: “[The MUTW] representatives had the chance to attend many informal meetings and to visit the cities of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. For the preparation of the conference and the stay in the company’s headquarters, we owe a big thank you to the Polish branch of Huawei and the direct organizer, Mr. Stanisław W., who is the PR manager in Huawei.”

In 2018, MUTW signed an agreement with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration. The main goal of the agreement is to “carry out research and development in telecommunications, information technology, cryptology and cybersecurity, with the special attention given to the security and protection of information processed in the telecommunication systems and networks,” according to MUTW’s website. The agreement was made possible by ICIS through its representative Maciej Kiedrowicz and employee Piotr D.

Piotr D.’s Link to the information Scandal at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration

While serving in the Internal Security Agency, Piotr D. was the vice director of the department of information and communication security, and he was the information and communication adviser of the-then chief Gen. Krzysztof Bondaryk (of the Internal Security Agency). At the end of 2011, Polish media Gazeta Wyborcza reported that according to their sources in the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CAB, Polish: Centralne Biuro Antykorupcyjne–CBA) and in the Attorney General’s office, Piotr D. was removed from his post after the arrest of Andrzej M., who was up to 2010, the director of the Center of Information and Communication Projects in MIAA.

Andrzej M. was the prime suspect in the information scandal at the MIAA. As the chief of the Center of Information and Communication Projects in MIAA, he was accepting bribes for bid rigging. In 2016, he was sentenced to 4.5 years in state prison.

In 2013, the year of the information scandal, the Internal Security Agency organized a press conference about the system of mobile communication for the most important people in the country. Piotr D. was responsible for the presentation. The system was assuming the purchase of telephones and laptops, which were to be provided to over three thousand people—among them were the president, prime minister, police chiefs and border officers.

Huawei’s Role in Poland’s 5G Technology

5G technology will allow for a much greater data transfer, hundreds time faster than today and with a much greater bandwidth. Whoever will build this infrastructure will have access to enormous amounts of data, which could pose potential security risks from the cybersecurity point of view.

Huawei is one of the potential partners that Poland is considering in building the infrastructure for 5G in the country. As the attorney to the Polish government for cybersecurity and deputy head of Ministry of Digitalization, Karol Okoński said: “We are are doing inventory of the use of the devices of the company Huawei in Poland, especially when it comes to the telecommunication infrastructure; this applies to both the functioning devices, as well as the planned 5G network.”

When asked about the initial arrangements about the use Huawei’s technology by the Polish administration, Okoński said: “We are in the process of gathering this information and depending on their analysis and the scale of scale of use, we will be thinking in this regard on the next steps that will be taken. However at this moment, I don’t have the complete information.”

Will Poland Ban Huawei?

“There are requests to ban Huawei from a part of the IT market,” said Karol Okoński, according to a report on Jan. 14 by the Polish edition of The Epoch Times. “But we don’t want to be too hasty in making this decision, because we are aware of its consequences. We have to operate in accordance with the Polish and European law. It might be that our final decision or recommendation will have to be divided into two stages,” he said. According to Okoński, the first stage would be a “soft” approach–for example, it would be making an appeal about being cautious with using Huawei’s technology, while in the second stage, which would be preceded by legislative changes, a factual decision could be made for banning Huawei from taking part in building the 5G network, other projects or a total exclusion from the Polish market.

The local offices of Chinese telecom firm Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Jan. 11, 2019 (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)
The local offices of Chinese telecoms firm Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Jan. 11, 2019. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)

The head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, Joachim Brudziński, answered questions about Huawei during an interview with RMF FM radio on Jan. 12, according to a report by Polish news TVP Info. When asked if the government should ban Huawei from the Polish market, he said: “Those arguments are more and more popular. Not only in Poland, but also in other countries.” He then mentioned Canada and the objections made against Huawei by NATO countries. “Regarding this issue, the most reasonable would be to have a joint position made by the countries belonging to EU and NATO,” said Brudziński.

The Special Services Committe, an intelligence agency, held a meeting on Jan. 17 to discuss the arrest of Weijing W. and the cybersecurity threats linked to Huawei. The chief of the committee, Marek Opioła, said during the meeting: “The most important questions were: how the operation of espionage looked like, for which country, what it involved, what secrets have been leaked, will it have an effect for the 5G tender.” Huawei has the devices to carry out the 5G pilots in Poland, while the competitors are behind in this technology. On the other hand, many countries, especially the United States, have banned Huawei from taking part in its own 5G projects.

Poland is not clear on how to approach the recent Huawei spying case. According to a report by Money.pl, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Jan. 23: “We should be very cautious regarding the decision of choosing the provider of the 5G technology.” But at the same time, Duda said: “The fact that we caught a man that was spying absolutely does not mean that we say for which country he was spying.”

The Polish Prime Minister’s Office seeks to organize a meeting with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to RMF24, the Polish government wants to convey a message that “it does not agree with spying, but at the same time, it wants to assure that it welcomes Chinese investments like the New Central Polish Airport in Baranowo or digging the Vistula Slit.

On Feb. 6, Huawei organized a press conference in Warsaw where Tonny Bao, the chief of the Polish branch of Huawei, said that despite the concerns that appeared in the media, the Polish government didn’t make any official accusations against Huawei related to cybersecurity.

The representatives of Huawei assured that there is no reason for Poland to exclude Huawei from the tender to build the 5G network and announced that it wants to build a center for cybersecurity in Poland.

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