UK moves away from Chinese telecom equipment

Updated: 2014-01-15 00:50

By ZHAO YANRONG (China Daily)

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Accusations about "information security" directed toward Chinese communication equipment should based on facts or investigative results rather than concerns raised by possible "vulnerabilities", observers said on Tuesday after British ministries dumped Chinese products.

British government departments such as the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Service are all said to have stopped using equipment manufactured by Chinese telecom company Huawei amid fears they are being used by the Chinese government to eavesdrop, according to a report by the UK's Sunday Mirror.

A briefing was sent to all ministerial departments urging them to stop using the video-conferencing equipment, the newspaper said, adding that there are possible "vulnerabilities" that have caused widespread concern.

The former head of the Foreign Office's Asia research group, Roderic Wye, told the paper "there had long been fears about the firm's operations".

He said: "It's a matter of record that the United States and Australia have had real concerns about Huawei. The UK has been rather more open and there is quite a bit of Huawei investment in this country.

"But there clearly remain concerns over how close the relationship is between Huawei and the Chinese government — and whether it could be a risk using the firm's technology in sensitive areas."

Huawei said the accusation was misleading and without any evidence.

"Our video conferencing equipment is based on global standards, so to suggest it is specifically open to abuse would be misleading," said a statement from the company's UK branch.

"We are a private, employee-owned company, and we share the same goal as our customers — to raise the standard of cybersecurity, and to ensure technology benefits consumers."

Xiang Ligang, a Beijing- based telecom expert, said the biggest threat to information security is not from the equipment but people's actions.

"Huawei has been shut out of the US market for the same reason, but from the Edward Snowden case we see that the US government, which doesn't use Huawei's products, was monitoring their own citizens, foreign diplomats and other countries' officials," Xiang said.

He Maochun, director of the Economy and Diplomacy Research Center at Tsinghua University, said it is unfair to dump Chinese products because of fear rather than evidence.

"Many Chinese telecom companies such as Lenovo, ZTE and Huawei are treated unfairly in Western markets for similar reasons. And the cases are likely to appear when Chinese telecom products are entering their markets on a large scale," He said.

The director said Chinese companies can improve transparency on information security and give foreign markets more confidence in their products.

"Industrial associations and the Chinese government should try to support the companies to pursue more legal measures to protect the rights they deserve," he added.

Many British products, such as financial services and construction equipment, are imported to China every year. If China treated UK companies the same way, it would be unfair to the British companies, the director said.