Huawei ‘would refuse to pass info to Beijing’

Written by Hannah McGrath

Huawei is a private company and would refuse to comply with any request from the Chinese government to hand over security information, the company’s vice president of Western Europe has said.

In an interview to coincide with a Huawei-commissioned report claiming that the company’s presence in the UK had made a £1.7 billion to the economy last year, Tim Watkins told Radio 4: "There is no obligation on Huwaei's part to cooperate with the government in the way in which the Americans are indicating.”

He claimed that the company was privately owned by its employees and had never received a request to hand over data or customer information to assist the Chinse government in its intelligence gathering activities.

The Chinese telecoms giant commissioned a report from Oxford Economics to assess its significance to the UK’s telecoms and technology industries, finding that Huawei supported 26,200 jobs across the UK in 2018, with an estimated tax contribution to the exchequer of £470 million.

“There is no mandate in (China's national intelligence) law that we have to hand over customer data or intelligence that we do not wish to hand over or we think should be sensitive,” Watkins said.

He added:"Our founder, Mr Ren, has made it clear that he has never been asked to hand over any customer data or information, and he has made it clear that if asked he would refuse and if it was attempted to be enforced he would shut the company down," he stated.

Huawei has been the subject of mounting calls, led by the US government, to offer reassurances that its 5G network hardware will not open up backdoors to enable surveillance of sensitive communications networks by the Chinese government.

The concerns centre around Article 77 of Chinese national security legislation introduced in 2017, which sets out an obligation on organisations and individuals to provide assistance with work relating to state security.

Huawei has vigorously denied the allegations of state interference, and in March stepped up ongoing tensions by suing the US government after president Donald Trump barred federal agencies and third party contractors from procuring Huawei’s equipment and technology services.

The company claimed the ban was unconstitutional as it filed the case with a federal court in Texas.

Last month, a report from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre criticised Huawei for failing to fix software and security flaws in its mobile network technology, citing “significant technical issues” that need to be addressed.