WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced bills on Jan. 16 that would ban the sale of U.S. chips or other components to Huawei, ZTE, or other Chinese telecommunications companies that violate U.S. sanctions or export control laws.
Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Mike Gallagher, both Republicans, along with Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Ruben Gallego, both Democrats, introduced the measures, which would require the U.S. president to ban the export of U.S. components to any Chinese telecommunications company that violates U.S. sanctions or export control laws.
The bills specifically cite ZTE and Huawei, both of which are viewed with suspicion in the United States because of fears that their switches and other gear could be used to spy on Americans. Both have also been accused of failing to respect U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Huawei is the world’s biggest producer of telecommunications equipment.
“Huawei is effectively an intelligence-gathering arm of the Chinese Communist Party whose founder and CEO was an engineer for the People’s Liberation Army,” Cotton wrote in a statement. “If Chinese telecom companies like Huawei violate our sanctions or export control laws, they should receive nothing less than the death penalty which this denial order would provide.”
Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, denied this week that his company was used by the Chinese government to spy. Ren was a former Chinese army engineer and current Communist Party member. He and his company’s close ties to the Chinese regime have led several Western governments to shut out Huawei equipment from their telecoms networks.
Canada detained Ren’s daughter, Meng Wanzhou, who is Huawei’s chief financial officer, in December at the request of U.S. authorities investigating Huawei’s alleged scheme to use the global banking system to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran. She has been released on bail and is confined to her home in Vancouver.
U.S. prosecutors allege that Meng committed fraud by telling banks in the United States that Huawei and Skycom, a Hong Kong-based company reportedly doing business with Iran, had no connections. In reality, Huawei effectively controlled Skycom, according to documents presented during bail hearings in Canadian court.
Her arrest prompted questions about Huawei’s fate. Last year, Huawei’s domestic competitor ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine to the United States that was imposed because the company had breached a U.S. embargo on trade with Iran. As part of the agreement, U.S. authorities lifted a ban that was put in place in April 2018 that prevented ZTE from buying the U.S. components it heavily relies on to make smartphones and other devices.
The ban was detrimental to ZTE’s business; by May, ZTE announced that it had ceased its main business operations.
By Diane Bartz. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.