Things are not going well for Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which while having drawn Malta’s attention is being kicked out from different countries around the world because of security concerns.
After a flurry or criticisms and legal woes over the last two months, this week saw a fresh round of problems for the company as Canada was the latest country to declare it would ban Huawei from its 5G network.
Top Canadian security analysts and experts have said a ban was imminent, but that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may delay it to avoid jeopardising the safety of three Canadian citizens held in China.
Richard Fadden, a former national security advisor to Trudeau said he believed Huawei’s presence in the Canadian 5G market could pose a significant security risk. Canada, he said, should take note of the fact that a number of its allies had already banned the company.
Canada would join western countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and the US who have blocked or limited the use of Huawei equipment. Germany and the UK have also been considering restrictions on the company’s operations within their borders amid concerns that the networks could be used to spy on citizens.
This latest development came just a day after the US State Department warned officials in Brussels against signing contracts with “untrusted suppliers from countries like China”.
Making specific reference to Huawei and ZTE, the representative said such collaborations could put the nation’s national security at risk as well as pose a danger to privacy, human rights and intellectual property protection.
European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip echoed similar concerns in December last year, saying that while national security was up to each individual Member State, the Commission would take a common approach if asked.
Following a law passed in 2017, Chinese businesses and citizens are bound to feed back information that is deemed necessary to the government, whether they reside in China or abroad. This led to serious concerns that telecommunications giants operating in foreign jurisdictions could spy on citizens and pass back sensitive information to Beijing.
Since then, the company has been embroiled in a number of scandals including lawsuits for intellectual property theft, criminal charges against the founder’s daughter (who is also the CFO), allegations of aiding Iran and North Korea evade of US sanctions, and charges of espionage brought against an employee in Poland.
Following the recent incident in Poland, Huawei has offered to open a “security testing facility” if the Polish authorities permit it. The proposed facility was pitched as linked to the condition that the Polish authorities accept Huawei as a trusted solution.
The company already operates a number of such labs, including one in the UK, called the ‘Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre’. Members of staff include a number of British intelligence personnel. They release an annual report on security measures and causes for concern.
Last year’s report highlighted significant issues around security and privacy precautions. Leaks to the press from this year’s report suggest very little has changed.
Despite concerns on a global scale, the Maltese government have remained tight-lipped on plans to roll out 5G and Huawei-powered facial recognition technology (or alternative cameras) in the country.
In 2015, Muscat had praised Sai Mizzi, wife of Minister Konrad Mizzi who was paid a monthly salary of €13,000, for bringing the company to Malta.