Huawei controversies timeline

America's accusatory tone against Huawei is nothing new - read on for our extensive list of controversies pinned to the company

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Reuters reported that the two lawmakers penned a letter to Trudeau, which read: "While Canada has strong telecommunications security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that such safeguards are inadequate given what the United States and other allies know about Huawei."

October - Huawei agrees to open security lab in Germany

Huawei committed in October to open up its source code to German regulators at a similar lab to the one it opened in Oxfordshire.

While America's trade war with China picked up pace, much of Europe had been seeking closer ties with Beijing.

The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), Reuters reported, planned to open the lab in November in Bonn, where other regulators are also based - as well as the partly state-owned Deutsche Telekom which is a partner of Huawei's.

November - Washington pressures allies into dropping Huawei

In a move described as "extraordinary" by the Wall Street Journal, the US government started a campaign to foreign allies to urge them to drop Huawei from 5G networks. Officials briefed countries including Germany, Italy, and Japan, and the US was even considering increasing financial aid for countries that did not sign up to contracts with Chinese vendors.

The WSJ quoted an unnamed US official as saying: "We engage with countries around the world about our concerns regarding cyber threats in telecommunications infrastructure. As they're looking to move to 5G, we remind them of those concerns. There are additional complexities to 5G networks that make them more vulnerable to cyber attacks."

Huawei said that it was "surprised by the behaviours of the US government" and that if a government's behaviour "extends beyond its jurisdiction, such activity should not be encouraged".

Voices from the telecommunications companies have been more sceptical than political figures. Vodafone's incoming chief executive Nick Read backed Huawei - and described it as being "actively engaged" with British and European security agencies.

"I think they're doing everything possible to ensure they remain a very serious and credible supplier," Read said.

Neil McRae, chief network architect for BT Group, described Huawei as the "only one true 5G supplier" at a Huawei event in London.

In the same month, New Zealand's intelligence agency rejected a bid from telco Spark New Zealand to use Huawei equipment - something Spark said it would seek "clarity" on.

Huawei also requested an explanation from authorities in New Zealand.

December - arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou

Chief financial officer of Huawei Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada where she was threatened with extradition to the USA - under the pretence of sanctions violations. She was threatened with extradition to the United States.

The CFO, who is also the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested on 1 December at the request of American authorities. First reported by Canada's Globe and Mail, Meng was accused of violating sanctions pertaining to Iran.

An unnamed Canadian law enforcement source told the Globe and Mail that the USA believes Meng was attempting to evade the American embargo against Iran.

The accusations appear to relate to Meng serving on the board of a Hong Kong business Skycom which is alleged to have worked with Iran between 2009 and 2014. The Verge reported that the prosecutor said that because American banks worked with Huawei at this time, sanctions on Iran were indirectly violated. Prosecutors have said that Skycom was an unofficial subsidiary of Huawei.

Commenting in a statement, Huawei said: "The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng. The company believes the Canadian and US legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion.

"Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations where it operates, including applicable export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, US and EU."

December - MI6 chief Alex Younger raises concerns

The usually elusive MI6 boss Alex Younger said that Britain should take stock on how comfortable it is with the ownership of 5G networks by Chinese vendors, and that the UK must make "some decisions" about the role they play in Britain. He added that British intelligence should do more to innovate in network intelligence.

December - no evidence of spying, says German watchdog

The head of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) in Bonn, Arne Schönbohm, said that his agency had found no evidence of Huawei conducting espionage. Schönbohm told der Spiegel: "For such serious decisions, you need proof."

The BSI, Schönbohm said, had looked at Huawei products and components from around the world.

December - BT removes some Huawei equipment from 4G network

BT said that it had removed some Huawei technology from its 4G network, but that this was part of a wider policy to standardise its equipment across the network after it purchase of EE in 2015. However, as the Guardian reported, parts of BT and EE's "peripheral" systems remain on Huawei equipment and that there are no plans to alter these.

In a statement emailed to Computerworld UK from Huawei, a spokesperson said: "Huawei has been working with BT for almost 15 years. Since the beginning of this partnership, BT has operated on a principle of different vendors for different network layers. This agreement remains in place today. Since it acquired EE in 2016, the BT Group has been actively bringing EE's legacy network architecture in line with this long-standing agreement.

"This is a normal and expected activity, which we understand and fully support. As BT noted, 'Huawei remains an important equipment provider and a valued innovation partner.' Working together, we have already completed a number of successful 5G trials across different sites in London, and we will continue to work with BT in the 5G era."

December - Huawei marks $2 billion to address UK security concerns

In response to concerns from the NCSC about inadequacies in the company's code base, Huawei said it would spend $2 billion - roughly £1.5 billion - on improving its product lines.


January - Trump administration considers formal ban of Huawei and ZTE

Reuters reported that a possible executive order that had been under consideration for at least eight months would outright block American companies from buying equipment from foreign telco suppliers.

The report notes that rural operators in the USA that rely on Huawei and ZTE equipment were concerned that they would have to can Chinese-made equipment without compensation.

January - Huawei new year message: no market can keep us away

In a new year message titled 'Fire is the Test of Gold', rotating chairman Guo Ping claimed that the company will keep working on delivering the best products and services to the degree that "no market can keep us away".

Opening the post with a Cicero quote - "the greater the difficulty, the greater the glory" - he said that the company's business performance remained strong despite the negative comments in the media and that this is the "best response" to "negative conjecture and market restrictions" before thanking customers, partners, the public, and employees.

January - US Justice Department files criminal charges against Huawei, Meng Wanzhou

The USA officially filed a total of 23 criminal charges against Huawei and CFO Meng Wanzhou, including bank fraud, obstruction of justice, and IP theft.

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said: "For years, Chinese firms have broken our export laws and undermined sanctions, often using US financial systems to facilitate their illegal activities."

But Huawei denied the criminal charges and said that it was not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng. Ms Meng also denied the allegations, which surrounded sanctions on Iran. The IP theft charges related to the Tappy robot from T-Mobile USA.

And, the BBC said, the company added that the allegations were already settled - where a civil suit jury did not find "damages nor wilful and malicious conducts on the trade secret claim".

January - Ren Zhengfei speaks out

In a rare interview with foreign media, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei denied that China's government had asked for help to spy using the firm's technology.

The FT, the WSJ and Bloomberg were among the titles invited to the roundtable.

"I love my country, I support the Communist Party," he said in the briefing. "But I will not do anything to harm the world. I don't see a close connection between my personal political beliefs and the businesses of Huawei."

He added that he would turn down requests from Chinese authorities for sensitive information on clients.

"Huawei is only a sesame seed in the trade conflict between China and the US," Ren said. "Trump is a great president. He dares to massively cut taxes, which will benefit business. But you have to treat well the companies and countries so that they are willing to invest in the US and the government will be able to collect enough tax."

Ren said that he "personally would never harm the interest of my customers and me and my company would not answer to such requests".

"No law in China requires any company to install mandatory backdoors," he said.

January - Huawei says it could pull out of Western countries

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Huawei chairman Mr Liang Hua said that the company could move its operations to where it was "welcomed" and added that the firm follows regulations in the territories it operates in.

He added that concerned parties were welcome to visit Huawei's labs in China, and stressed Britain's approach to "openness" and "free trade".

Mr Liang Hua also said that the company would continue to focus on "providing value by offering the high bandwidth ultra low latency and high connectivity products" to its customers, said the BBC.

January - Chinese ambassador to EU slams Huawei network fears

Speaking of the cybersecurity concerns raised within Europe, senior diplomat Zhang Ming said that it is "not helpful to make slander, discrimination, pressure, coercion or speculation against anyone else".

"Now someone is sparing no effort to fabricate a security story about Huawei," the ambassador said, according to the FT. "I do not think that this story has anything to do with security."

The diplomat added that global supply chains were intertwined and that because Huawei is a leading manufacturer in 5G, it would be "very irresponsible" to cut it out of the chain - and that doing so could mean "serious consequences to global economic and scientific cooperation".

February - Merkel calls for further security reassurances

During a trip to Japan, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel said further security guarantees must be in place for Huawei to be involved in the country's rollout of 5G networks.

February - Alex Louder states outright ban might not be the right course for the UK

MI6 head Alex Louder, who had previously sounded the alarm about Huawei, clarified that he believes a blanket ban of the vendor might not be the most appropriate course for Britain - adding that the subject was complex.

He said in Munich: "There are some practical points about the number of vendors who exist at the moment. It's not inherently desirable that we have a monopolistic supplier of any of our critical national infrastructure. We should be aiming for the maximum diversity as a matter of good practice."

That meant taking a "principles-based approach" and that the first of these should be "around quality".

"This has got nothing to do with the country of origin," he added. "We should be insisting on the highest level of quality in any form of technology platform or service we choose to use and in particular security quality."

The comments were echoed by an opinion piece penned by former GCHQ director Robert Hannigan in the FT, who said that in his view a blanket ban would not make sense, and calls for such were "short on technical understanding of cybersecurity and the complexities of 5G architecture."

February - Huawei says it could take five years for 'tangible' security results

A letter penned by Huawei to MP Norman Lamb said that it could take as long as five years for "tangible results" from the firm's commitment to addressing some of the security concerns.

In the letter, Ryan Ding, carrier business group president for the company said: "Modern communications networks are complex systems that keep evolving in new and innovative ways. Enhancing our software engineering capabilities is like replacing components on a high-speed train in motion ...

"It is a complicated and involved process and will take at least three to five years to see tangible results. We hope the UK government can understand this."

February - 5G is "not the atom bomb" says Huawei's Eric Xu

Speaking with Computerworld UK and other British media at a comprehensive roundtable at Huawei's Shenzhen headquarters, rotating chairman Eric Xu retorted to many of the security fears - where he outlined Huawei's plans to address extensive legacy code to better align with current security standards, as well as future-proofing its product line.

He said that comments from American officials speak to a "well-coordinated geopolitical campaign" against the company, and that the USA is "essentially using a national machine against a small company".

Xu asked: "Is the recent fixation on Huawei truly about cyber security or could there be other motivations?

"Are they truly considering the cybersecurity and privacy protection of the people in other nations, or are there possibly other motives? Some other people argue that they are trying to find leverage for US-China trade negotiations.

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