New Zealand cries foul over Huawei rugby quip in newspaper ads

   The move comes after New Zealand's intelligence services in November rejected a plan to use Huawei technology in a next-generation 5G network, citing "significant national security risks".
The move comes after New Zealand's intelligence services in November rejected a plan to use Huawei technology in a next-generation 5G network, citing "significant national security risks".PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM HUAWEI.COM

WELLINGTON (AFP) - Chinese telecom giant Huawei took a light-hearted dig on Wednesday (Feb 13) at New Zealand's decision to ban it from the rugby-mad nation's 5G infrastructure development, leaving officials in Wellington unimpressed.

"5G without Huawei is like rugby without New Zealand," the company said in full-page advertisements published in major newspapers.

The unusual move comes after New Zealand's intelligence services in November rejected a plan to use Huawei technology in a next-generation 5G network, citing "significant national security risks".

It was part of a wave of bans on Huawei in a growing number of countries over fears the company's equipment could act as an espionage backdoor for China, which Beijing labels "groundless".

Huawei New Zealand said there was no evidence the company had done anything wrong and that the ban may prevent New Zealanders using the best possible network.

"We see this as a quirky way of getting that message across," it told Radio New Zealand.

"New Zealanders wouldn't accept second or third best on the rugby field, and they shouldn't have to put up with it when it comes to 5G."

 
 

However, New Zealand's government has been trying to downplay the ban in a bid to avoid offending its largest trading partner, and was not laughing after Huawei put the issue back on the public agenda.

"It's not helping," government minister Andrew Little, who oversees intelligence services, told reporters.

"They can bark as long as they like, but we have decisions to make about New Zealand's national security interests. That's the only thing upon which we will make a decision."

The government has previously denied it acted because Huawei was Chinese and said there had not been any pressure to blacklist the company from its "Five Eyes" intelligence partners - the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada.