Controversial Chinese telecommunications company Huawei has been in the news here in the UK in a big way this week.
The headlines have been spawned by a controversial decision from British Prime Minister Theresa May to allow the company to play a role in the development of the UK’s new 5G network.
The decision, which was first reported in the Telegraph (£) was apparently taken despite advice from all relevant ministers saying they should be excluded.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson all advised against allowing Huawei to play a role, while the British intelligence agencies have repeatedly warned in public that Huawei poses a threat to national security.
With opposition parties and select committee chairmen including two from her own party, Defence Committee chair Tom Tugendhat and Foreign Affairs Committee chair Julian Lewis all questioning the wisdom of the decision, it is to be hoped that it is only a matter of time before it is reversed.
Theresa May was absent from Prime Ministers Questions this week, but answering in her place, David Lidington told the House of Commons that, “Legally speaking Huawei is a private firm, not a government-owned company.”
Huawei’s ownership under the microscope
The fact that he used the qualifying term, ‘legally speaking’ suggests that the Government is not unaware of Huawei’s close links to China’s brutal Communist regime. But the fact is that he may have to return to the house to correct the record as recent research has proved that Huawei is in fact owned by the Chinese state.
An academic paper published last week by US professors Christopher Balding and Donald Clarke provided strong evidence that Huawei is not the independent staff-owned enterprise it claims to be.
Instead, they found that the company was effectively owned by a trade union. In Communist China, all trade unions are part of a Communist Party-run labour federation, which means that in effect Huawei is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Huawei was shaken enough by these revelations to hold a news conference yesterday to try and refute them. But all Jiang Xisheng, chief secretary of the board at Huawei, could offer was renewed claims of staff ownership but admitted this ownership was not legally binding.
This hollow defence has done little to play down their close ties with the Communist regime. These claims have existed ever since the company was founded by Ren Zhengfei, a former military technologist for the Communist Party’s People’s Liberation Army.
It is also believed the party has received state funding at every crucial moment in its development.
Damning evidence of CCP links in multiple security reports
The strong evidence of ownership links to the Chinese Communist Party makes the repeated revelations about security flaws in Huawei technology seem all the more suspicious.
Earlier this year, UK cyber-security inspectors found significant security flaws in the company’s network technology which led to security services advising government not to use the company.
The US Government has been aware of these flaws since 2012 when they banned US telecoms companies from buying Huawei equipment. They have suggested some flaws are likely to allow the Communist Party backdoor access into Huawei technology and devices overseas.
Huawei has consistently denied these claims but is yet to provide any compelling evidence to prove they are untrue.
Then there is the recent controversy over their new P30 smartphone which has been found by one user to be sending queries and possibly data to Chinese government servers. The user has since suggested the queries could be caused by his use of the Baidu search engine but doubts still remain.
Our advice: Have nothing to do with Huawei
There is an old saying that ‘there is no smoke without fire’ and in the case of Huawei, the smoke is beginning to choke us.
There are simply too many facts about this company that are not in the open and don’t add up. The links to the Chinese Communist Party are apparent, the many security flaws are proven, and the suggestion that the Communist Party controls the company is growing rapidly.
It is true that no-one has yet found the cast-iron proof of this. But it is also true that whenever Huawei has had a chance to put the controversy to bed, they have failed to do so.
In these circumstances, our advice to readers and indeed the British Government, would be to steer clear of Huawei if you value your online security and privacy.
You could use a VPN after buying a Huawei device but if the device itself is already compromised, this will make little difference.
It is simply not worth risking using Huawei devices or technology given what we know about the company at the moment. Perhaps, one day, they will prove all of these suggestions about backdoors and links to the Communist Party wrong.
But until that day, our advice is to avoid Huawei technology with or without a VPN.