Huawei asks US courts to declare ban unconstitutional

Huawei chief legal officer Song Liuping leaving after a news conference on the firm's ongoing legal action against the US government's National Defence Authorisation Act, at its headquarters in Shenzhen yesterday.
Huawei chief legal officer Song Liuping leaving after a news conference on the firm's ongoing legal action against the US government's National Defence Authorisation Act, at its headquarters in Shenzhen yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

It says law barring US firms from using its products is an abuse of legislative power

Chinese tech giant Huawei has called on US courts to declare legislation that bars US government agencies from using its equipment as unconstitutional.

The firm said yesterday that it has filed a legal motion for a summary judgment in its case challenging the constitutionality of Section 889 of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), which prohibits government agencies from buying Huawei's equipment and services.

Huawei had first sued the United States government in March challenging the NDAA - which explicitly names Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese telecoms equipment maker, citing that both firms pose national security risks.

Yesterday, the company called a press conference at its headquarters in Shenzhen, where it hit back at the US, saying the law was an abuse of legislative power.

The Act singles out Huawei, presumes its guilt and deprives it of the right of rebuttal, it said, noting that this was unconstitutional.

Explaining why Huawei had called for a summary judgment - which requests that the courts rule in its favour as a matter of law - the company's lead counsel for the case, Mr Glen Nager, said the case presents pure questions of law, so it justifies "the motion for a summary judgment to speed up the process".

"We believe this is the best and fastest way to set aside this unconstitutional law," he told reporters via a teleconference call from the US.

Huawei's latest motion was filed late on Tuesday in the US.

The Chinese company, the world's largest telecoms equipment manufacturer, has been facing mounting pressure from Washington, which has long accused it of having close links with Beijing and aiding it in espionage, a claim Huawei denies.

Earlier this month, the US Commerce Department put Huawei on its "Entity List", in effect blacklisting it, restricting its access to software and products from US firms.

UNPRECEDENTED

Politicians in the US are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company... This is not normal. Almost never seen in history.

HUAWEI CHIEF LEGAL OFFICER SONG LIUPING, on US actions against the firm.

NOT RELEVANT

I wonder why there is interest in my individual political affiliation because I don't think it matters to the company's business operations. I think it's a matter of privacy.

HUAWEI CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS HEAD VINCENT PANG, when asked if he was a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

This would strike a heavy blow as Huawei depends heavily on US tech - from chips to software like Google's Android operating system.

Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei told Chinese media last week that half of its chips came from US companies.

Chief legal officer Song Liuping said yesterday that Huawei was exploring options, including "administrative and judicial means" to challenge the blacklisting.

"We believe ultimately we are fighting for a fair chance to compete in the market," he said.

During the hour-long press conference, senior executives at times took a strident and defiant tone.

"Politicians in the US are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company... This is not normal. Almost never seen in history," said Mr Song, adding that Huawei's blacklisting threatens the welfare of its three billion customers across 170 countries, which include those in developing nations and rural areas in the US.

Head of corporate communications Vincent Pang said the company's data shows that allowing Huawei to participate in the US market would save telecoms operators there US$20 billion (S$27.6 billion) over the next four years in the construction of their networks.

He added that the recent US measures on the company could be the start of a "fragmentation of technical standards and the global ecosystem", echoing claims by analysts that a technological cold war between the US and China could separate the world into two mutually exclusive technological spheres.

At one point, Mr Pang and Mr Song were asked bluntly if they were members of the Chinese Communist Party. While Mr Song said he was not, Mr Pang replied: "I wonder why there is interest in my individual political affiliation because I don't think it matters to the company's business operations. I think it's a matter of privacy."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline 'Huawei asks US courts to declare ban unconstitutional'. Print Edition | Subscribe