A smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo is seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture taken January 29, 2020

Australia accused of discriminating against Huawei

Image credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The Chinese ambassador has said that the Australian government’s ban on Huawei in its 5G network remains a ‘thorny issue’ between the nations, and accused the government of discrimination.

Speaking to Sky News, Cheng Jingye dismissed concerns that Huawei may pose a threat to Australia’s national security given its alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party and allegations of espionage. He also claimed the ban imposed by Canberra was “politically motivated”.

“It is, it is. I mean, it is a discrimination against the Chinese company. At the same time it doesn’t serve the best interest of the Australian companies and consumers,” he told Sky News. “I mean, as far as I know, the Huawei company in Australia, they have tried every means to talk with the Australian authorities to explore what security risks or concerns they have. And also, they have pledged, I think publicly, to conclude a no-backdoor agreement.”

The Turnbull government blacklisted both Huawei and fellow Chinese tech giant ZTE from Australia’s 5G network in August 2018 in response to advice from security experts. The US has also banned Huawei and warned that European allies who use communications technology provided by it in their networks put intelligence-sharing relationships at risk.

The Chinese ambassador’s criticism comes amid a dispute between Australia and the UK due to the latter’s decision to allow Huawei to build its 5G network. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported that US President Donald Trump lambasted Johnson with “apoplectic” rage during a heated telephone conversation over the issue.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the deputy chairman of the Australian parliamentary intelligence committee, Labour MP Anthony Byrne, criticised the visiting UK foreign affairs secretary, Dominic Raab, over the ruling.

“How would you feel if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks? That's how we feel about Huawei,” Byrne reportedly said to Raab.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported the intelligence committee had cancelled a trip to the UK over the dispute, claims which Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was forced to downplay at the weekend as he claimed bilateral relations with the UK were strong. However, Raab’s conversations with the Australian MPs were leaked and has drawn harsh criticism from the UK. And as a result, the UK High Commissioner wrote to the heads of each committee expressing displeasure details of the talks, which found their way into the media.

Despite tensions rising between Australia and the UK, Cheng said he believed the UK Government had made a “sensible” decision to not kowtow to “external pressure” from critical nations. He also repeated denials China had been behind recent cyber-attacks on Australian networks, saying the allegations had “never been substantiated with evidence”.

“If it’s happened in a certain country, it does mean that is done by ‘this’ country,” he said. “But it might be done by a third country or persons, and China is also a victim of cyber-attacks.”

“We have suffered a lot of attacks from different parts of the world. So the cybersecurity is an international challenge, which we need to work together instead of making unfounded allegations,” he concluded.

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