Huawei logo in a server room

Huawei offers to sign ‘no spying’ deal for UK

Image credit: Alexey Novikov | Dreamstime.com

Huawei has said it is willing to sign a 'no spying' agreement with countries including the UK in order to ease concerns about its technology, the firm's chairman has said.

The telecoms giant has been under intense international scrutiny in recent months over claims that any involvement of Huawei equipment in nascent 5G networks could be exploited for espionage by the Chinese government - an accusation which the company has consistently denied.

During a visit to the UK, chairman Dr Liang Hua said the company was prepared to agree to a deal to fend off the growing suspicion that its equipment could be used by the Chinese state as a 'back door' route that faciliated spying on other countries.

“We are willing to sign ‘no spy’ agreements with governments, including the UK Government, to commit ourselves, to commit our equipment to meeting the no spy, no back door standards,” Dr Liang told a press conference in London.

Last month, the German media reported that Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei had spoken with the country's interior ministry about signing a ‘no spy’ agreement.

The Huawei chairman said it was “not our intention to be at the core of such political controversy” and claimed the media attention is “partly due to the exaggeration of the growing impact of the next-generation network, 5G”.

Dr Liang claimed Huawei has never been asked to hand over data or information about customers by the Chinese state and he supported the views of Huawei’s founder, who said he would rather shut down the company than accept any request to collect intelligence for any government.

“There are a lot of Chinese officials making it abundantly clear that there are no Chinese laws requiring any Chinese company to collect intelligence from foreign governments,” Dr Liang said.

Huawei, a market leader in the equipment required to build next-generation 5G mobile data networks, has been the subject of controversy in recent months, with the UK Government yet to announce a decision on the company’s presence in 5G networks.

The importance of maintaining the security of the new 5G networks was raised in talks this week between Theresa May and NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

Following the meeting at No. 10, Mr Stoltenberg said that while the alliance was working to develop “minimum standards,” ultimately they were decisions for national governments.

“This is a concern that all allies are addressing. These are of course national decisions,” he told reporters. “What matters for NATO is that we try to develop as much as possible a common approach to achieve some minimum standards for requirements which ensure security of our networks.”

Last month, details of a meeting of the UK’s National Security Council to discuss Huawei’s place in UK telecoms infrastructure were leaked. The Daily Telegraph subsequently reported that Prime Minister Theresa May had said that she would allow Huawei’s presence, despite concerns raised by several cabinet ministers.

Following an investigation into the leak, defence secretary Gavin Williamson was sacked from his cabinet position, although he denied any involvement in the affair.

Earlier this week, a report claimed that Huawei boosted the UK’s annual GDP by £1.7bn in 2018. The study, conducted by quantitative analysis firm Oxford Economics - which previously co-authored a report with Huawei in 2017 - estimated that the Chinese firm supports more than 26,000 jobs in the UK.

It also said the company had invested £112m in research and development in the UK, employing more than 300 people, and that the firm provided a tax revenue of £470m in 2018.

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