China's ambassador to the UK has urged the government not to be influenced by allies when making its decision whether or not to ban Huawei from 5G networks.
Beijing’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, called on the government to make its own determination on the issue rather than follow allies like the US and Australia in banning Chinese telecoms equipment from official networks.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Liu wrote:
“Countries of global influence, like the UK, make decisions independently and in accordance with their national interests.
When it comes to the establishment of the new 5G network, the UK is in the position to do the same again by resisting pressure, working to avoid interruptions and making the right decision independently based on its national interests and in line with its need for long-term development.”
Liu urged the UK to resist ‘protectionism’ which is seen from Beijing’s perspective as the reason for the ‘trade war’ between the US and China which saw billions of tariffs imposed on each country's goods.
Post-Brexit, the UK has expressed a desire to pursue an independent trade policy with fast-growing economies such as China with its ‘Global Britain’ initiative.
Liu added: “The last thing China expects from a truly open and fair ‘global Britain’ is a playing field that is not level.”
The ambassador's comments represent the first time Beijing has officially spoken about the Huawei issue in the UK.
Last week, government officials were furious after details leaked from a secret National Security Council meeting where Prime Minister May and other senior cabinet members spoke in supposed confidentiality about the risk posed by Huawei with members of the intelligence community.
According to the leak, May is minded to allow Huawei in ‘non-core’ parts of 5G networks. A government spokesperson maintains that no decision has yet been made.
Liu expresses an understanding of the 5G security concerns but urges any decision to be made based on facts.
“The risks should be taken seriously but risks must not be allowed to incite fear. They can be managed, provided countries and companies work together,” he wrote.
“Huawei has had a good track record on security over the years, having taken the initiative to invest in a Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, which employs an all-British monitoring team. The company has been working hard to improve its technology and to enhance the security and reliability of its equipment.”
Responding to Liu’s article, Tory MP Bob Seely tweeted that China had “a bad record on: hacking, IP theft & arguably using big data and AI against own people”.
In a letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, six Conservative MPs – including Seely – expressed their concern over the leak:
“Having China anywhere near our communications systems poses structural risks about the level of Chinese influence in our society.
Chinese law demands that Chinese firms work with the Chinese secret services.”
The UK is facing pressure from its allies, particularly the US, to implement a ban on Chinese equipment. American officials have expressed concern that it may damage the ‘Five-Eyes’ intelligence-sharing relationship.
If the UK leaks are correct, the Trump administration is expected to urge the government to reconsider its decision.
A criminal investigation is expected to be launched into the leak. The focus has been on the five objectors to allowing Huawei into 5G networks: Sajid Javid, the home secretary; Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary; Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary; Penny Mordaunt, the development secretary; and Liam Fox, the trade secretary.
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