Telecoms

Huawei challenges US cyber security ‘excuse’ on ban

Read time 5min 20sec
Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer.
Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer.

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has told the US government that banning the company using cyber security as an excuse “will do nothing to make networks more secure”.

This after the US has for months been rallying its allies to cut Huawei out of planned 5G networks, citing “national security threats” due to the company’s close ties to the Chinese government.

Huawei has denied installing any backdoors in its networking equipment for alleged government spying.

US president Donald Trump recently upped the ante in his battle with Huawei, issuing an executive order declaring a national emergency over ICT threats.

The US Department of Commerce then officially placed Huawei and 70 of its affiliates on the Bureau of Industry and Security’s “entity list”, effectively banning the firm from buying components from US companies without government approval.

State-sanctioned campaign

In a statement issued today, Huawei says it has filed a motion for summary judgement as part of the process to challenge the constitutionality of Section 889 of the 2019 National Defence Authorisation Act (2019 NDAA).

It also called on the US government to halt its state-sanctioned campaign against Huawei because it will not deliver cyber security.

Huawei is the second biggest smartphone maker in the world behind Samsung. It recently overtook Apple, which is now number three in the smartphone market. Huawei is also the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment-maker, leading in technologies like 5G.

Banning Huawei using cyber security as an excuse “will provide a false sense of security, and distract attention from the real challenges we face”, says Song Liuping, Huawei chief legal officer.

“Politicians in the US are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company,” Song notes. “This is not normal. Almost never seen in history. The US government has provided no evidence to show that Huawei is a security threat. There is no gun, no smoke. Only speculation,” Song adds.

In the complaint, Huawei argues that Section 889 of the 2019 NDAA singles out Huawei by name and not only bars US government agencies from buying Huawei equipment and services, but also bars them from contracting with or awarding grants or loans to third-parties that buy Huawei equipment or services, even if there is no impact or connection to the US government.

Song also addresses the addition of Huawei to the “entity list” by the US Commerce Department two weeks ago. “This sets a dangerous precedent. Today it’s telecoms and Huawei. Tomorrow it could be your industry, your company, your consumers.

“The judicial system is the last line of defence for justice. Huawei has confidence in the independence and integrity of the US judicial system. We hope that mistakes in the NDAA can be corrected by the court,” Song notes.

Glen Nager, Huawei’s lead counsel for the case, says Section 889 of the 2019 NDAA violates the Bill of Attainder, Due Process and Vesting Clauses of the US Constitution. Thus, the case is purely “a matter of law” as there are no facts at issue, thereby justifying the motion for a summary judgement to speed up the process.

Huawei expects the US to take the right approach and adopt honest and effective measures to enhance cyber security for everyone, if the US government’s real goal is security.

In line with a court scheduling order, a hearing on the motion is set for 19 September.

Standards organisations

In a separate statement, Huawei says recently, a handful of standards and industry organisations have put some aspects of collaboration with Huawei on hold in response to political pressure.

“We are disappointed by these decisions, but they will not have an effect on our daily operations. We will continue to provide our customers with top-quality products and services.

“Huawei has not violated the articles of association for any of these organisations, and yet a small group of them have decided to suspend collaboration without any legal basis. Their actions go against the very principles that they purport to hold, and undermine their credibility as international organisations.”

Ultimately, the company notes, decisions like this will result in fragmented standards, including fragmentation in information and communications standards, and will only serve to drive up costs and risks for everyone along the value chain.

On 22 May, BBC reported that UK-based chip designer ARM told staff it must suspend business with Huawei.

Huawei comments: “At the moment, our supplier ARM is reviewing and evaluating the impact of the commerce department's decision, and is actively communicating with the US government. We completely understand and support them.”

5G training

Meanwhile, Huawei South Africa says it’s “business as usual” for the company and its customers despite the global fallout after the US put the telecoms equipment maker on a trade blacklist.

Huawei South Africa has launched free 5G training for ICT postgraduates at Wits University. The course is part of Huawei’s ICT Talent Ecosystem programme, which aims to grow and support ICT skills training and skills transfer in SA, especially in the latest technologies of 5G, artificial intelligence, cloud and data services. There are also plans to expand the programme across the country.

“As South Africa moves into the 4IR [fourth industrial revolution], no one must be left behind. Most future applications in the 4IR era will run in a 5G network and environment. That is why it is our privilege to start this 5G skills transfer in South Africa, and we are glad to partner with Wits and UP to offer South Africa’s first 5G training for ICT students,” says Huawei deputy CEO Kian Chen.

“We believe South Africa’s talented young people have the potential to mature into world-class experts. By enhancing industry-academic cooperation, we, as an international ICT company, hope to make our contribution to achieving the country’s development goals,” Chen notes.

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