Huawei: We don’t have to cooperate with Chinese state

The head of cyber security at Chinese tech giant Huawei has told MPs that his firm is not obliged to work with the Chinese government “on anything whatsoever”, despite a Chinese law which appears to require collaboration with the state.

Article 22 of China’s 2014 Counter-Espionage Law, which was released in 2017, states that “relevant organisations and individuals” must “not refuse” to provide information to the Chinese government.

This law has been one of the main arguments used by the United States to justify its blacklisting of Huawei last month, preventing US suppliers from selling components to the telecoms company.

Speaking to the science and technology committee, Huawei’s global cybersecurity and privacy officer John Suffolk insisted that the law had been misinterpreted by global observers.

“There are no laws in China that obligate us to work with the Chinese government on anything whatsoever and we have looked at all the Chinese laws and we had their views validated by Clifford Chance in London,” he told the hearing.

Asked by Conservative MP Bill Grant whether he denied the existence of the law, Mr Suffolk responded that it existed, but its scope was limited.

“According to our legal advice [it] does not require Huawei to undertake anything that weakens Huawei’s position in terms of security,” he said.

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Mr Grant replied: “That’s entirely unbelievable.”

In a frequently testy session, the bluntly-spoken Mr Suffolk also defended Huawei’s work in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, where the firm has been accused of aiding human rights abuses.

Asked if the UK government should do business with a company that is complicit in human rights abuses, Mr Suffolk replied: “You should do business with all companies that stick to the law.”

Asked if there was a repressive government he wouldn’t work for, Mr Suffolk replied: “I’ve never given that any thought.”

Mr Grant responded: “You’re a moral vacuum.” Mr Suffolk said: “I don’t believe so, no.”

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