The United Kingdom is taking a second look at Chinese firm Huawei after the United States and Canada expressed concerns that it can potentially compromise their national security if allowed to help build their communication network.
Britain’s security watchdog will be scrutinizing Huawei, a well-established communication firm in the country. Huawei is currently in partnership with Britain’s largest telecoms company, BT Group PLC, in doing upgrades to Britain’s communication infrastructure way back 2005.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s confidence in the company is high following his meeting with Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a former member and technician in China’s People’s Liberation Army about 30 years ago, to propose a $2 billion investment by the company in the country.
The Chinese firm is facing an uphill battle on the other side of the Atlantic where both Canada and the United States declared it a security threat. Huawei is considered the second largest manufacturer of networking equipment in the world. A panel from the U.S. Congress claimed that Huawei can spy for Beijing by making backdoors that could filter critical communication from the U.S. government. Huawei denied the allegations.
The Chairman of the British parliamentary security watchdog, Malcolm Rifkind, said that his group’s interest predated the report of the U.S. Congress.
“The issue of Huawei goes back two or three years, with both the United States and Australia, and one or two other countries, expressing concern,” he told Reuters.
“There’s been a particular interest in Huawei because it’s a major Chinese company, but one which has its origins in individuals who were in the People’s Liberation Army, and there’s obviously a question mark as to the extent they are truly independent of Chinese government influence.”
Huawei, for its part said that the UK government had already examined the company before ever since it opened its office in Britain about 11 years ago.
BT Group also confirmed that its relationship with Huawei follows the law of the land.
“BT takes a risk-management approach on the use of components from Huawei and, like the UK government, we see no need to change our position following the U.S. report,” a BT spokesman said.
“BT’s network is underpinned by robust security controls and built-in resilience. We always work closely with each of our suppliers – and government where appropriate – to gain assurance through rigorous review that the security of the network is not compromised.”
A cyber security evaluation center was established by Huawei in the country about two years ago to test its hardware and software to protect itself from any cyber security threats.
The British government said that the center helped in ensuring the resilience and security of the country’s telecom networks.
A government spokesman reaffirmed the center’s importance by saying: “The evaluation center obviously works very closely with UK government security specialists, and that allows us to satisfy ourselves as well that the equipment coming into the UK meets our standards.”
Rifkind said his committee will reexamine the role of the center, how it works, and what conclusions can be drawn from its operation. He will submit a report to the prime minister before of after the end of the year.