Huawei tells UK Parliament it's not a security threat

LONDON • A Huawei executive defended the company's security practices in the face of tough questioning from members of the British Parliament on Monday, as the Chinese technology giant seeks to contain a United States-led effort to ban it around the world.

Mr John Suffolk, Huawei's global cyber-security and privacy officer, appeared at a hearing in the House of Commons about the safety of Britain's telecoms infrastructure.

British leaders are facing pressure from Trump's government to follow the US' lead in banning Huawei, the world's largest maker of telecommunications equipment.

The US has argued Huawei is beholden to the Chinese government, poses a grave national security threat and should not be allowed to help build the new high-speed, next-generation 5G networks that will debut in the coming years.

At the hearing, Mr Suffolk said Huawei was independent and would never undermine the safety of its equipment to satisfy demands from Beijing.

"There are no laws in China that obligate us to work with the Chinese government," he said.

Britain is weighing whether to allow Huawei to play a role in its 5G networks. The firm's equipment is already being used in the country, but the US authorities have raised new questions about the gear and risks it poses to national security, threatening to restrict the intelligence it shares with countries that allow Huawei in its 5G networks.

 
 
 
 

The firm has become a central piece of the trade dispute between the US and China after Washington recently blacklisted Huawei.

Beijing has moved to retaliate against US companies - over the past week, the Chinese authorities summoned major international tech companies to warn that they could face consequences if they cooperate with the Trump administration's ban on sales of key US technology to Chinese companies.

The British authorities have for years subjected Huawei products and code to review. While intelligence officials have said the risk of Huawei can be mitigated, a government report issued in March highlighted "significant" security problems with its equipment. The report did not link any of the flaws to the Chinese government.

Mr Suffolk said Huawei was committed to transparency and to fixing the problems highlighted by the March report.

"We stand naked in front of the world," he said. "It may not be a pretty sight all of the time, but we would prefer to do that."

British lawmakers asked if China could inject backdoor access into Huawei's network without the company's knowledge.

Without directly answering, Mr Suffolk noted that the US had used those tactics to intercept global communications. "That's what governments do," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2019, with the headline 'Huawei tells UK Parliament it's not a security threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe