Europe split seen in Polish arrest of Huawei worker

Huawei is under growing pressure in Europe amid rising concerns that Beijing could be using the company's equipment for spying. Washington wants its European allies to block Huawei from telecom networks amid a wider dispute over trade with China.
Huawei is under growing pressure in Europe amid rising concerns that Beijing could be using the company's equipment for spying. Washington wants its European allies to block Huawei from telecom networks amid a wider dispute over trade with China.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Some states fear firm's equipment could be used by China for spying, others welcome its technology

WARSAW • As Poland added to the global scrutiny of Huawei Technologies with the arrest of a company employee and a local former security agent last Friday, the country's authorities also exposed the division in Europe over policy towards the Chinese technology giant.

Huawei is facing increasing pressure across the European Union amid growing concerns that Beijing could use the company's equipment for spying, something executives have denied.

US President Donald Trump's administration has been pushing European allies to block Huawei from telecom networks amid a wider dispute over trade with China.

While there is little to suggest any political motive, the Warsaw government is a staunch ally of the US and the country is a prototype of Trump-style nationalism and protectionism. Poland relies on the EU for money, but counts on the Americans for security, and US troops are stationed on its soil.

Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski said in a radio interview yesterday that the EU and Nato should find a common approach towards Huawei.

"We want to have good, intensive and attractive relations with China; it's a huge market," Mr Brudzinski told Radio RMF FM.

The dilemma is that Europe needs to develop its infrastructure somehow. Various countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Norway, have publicly raised concerns about using Huawei equipment for next-generation mobile networks.

But others, like Spain, Portugal and Hungary, have been more welcoming of Chinese involvement.

"Europe is facing a challenge when it comes to dealing with Huawei and it shows that the continent doesn't have the ability to be autonomous," said Dr Solange Ghernaouti, head of the Swiss Cybersecurity Advisory and Research Group.

"Europe is either dependent on China or the United States."

The Huawei employee detained in Poland is a Chinese citizen responsible for sales to public-sector clients, television news channel TVPInfo said last Friday. The other detained person is a former high-ranking official at Poland's Internal Security Agency who worked at mobile phone operator Orange Polska. The two will remain in custody for three months.

Evidence shows that both men conducted espionage activities against Poland, Mr Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for Poland's secret services chief, said in a statement. If convicted, they face up to 10 years in jail, Mr Zaryn said.

 
 

China is seeking consular access for the Chinese citizen, Mr Wang Weijing, state media reported yesterday. The Chinese embassy in Poland has also asked Warsaw to "effectively ensure the legitimate rights and interests, and humanitarian and safe treatment of the person involved".

The accusations add to Huawei's troubles of late as Western governments grow worried that the company's systems could be used by Chinese intelligence.

Huawei yesterday said it has terminated Mr Wang's employment and that his alleged actions "have no relation to the company". The telecom equipment vendor also said Mr Wang "has brought Huawei into disrepute".

Australia and New Zealand have banned Huawei equipment from the planned 5G networks of carriers in the countries and the head of British spy agency MI6 said last month the government had to decide whether to ban the company.

Germany has said it is considering restricting Huawei's role in its future telecom infrastructure, while Czech President Milos Zeman said last Friday that China is preparing an economically damaging reprisal against his country after the authorities issued warnings about Huawei and the risks it poses to security.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 13, 2019, with the headline 'Europe split seen in Polish arrest of Huawei worker'. Print Edition | Subscribe