A few months back, when President Trump announced that he would be banning Huawei from conducting business in the U.S. due to security concerns, the company’s PR went on a propaganda stunt and tried to paint Trump being afraid of Chinese tech competition. Now, a study that looked at the employees working for Huawei has found that some of them have links to China’s military and intelligence services.
Linked to the state
The study was conducted by the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank, and Christopher Balding, an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam. Together, they analyzed close to 25,000 resumes of current or former Huawei employees from a massive 590 million Chinese resumes that had leaked online last year. By using keywords like “People’s Liberation Army,” the team further narrowed down the resumes to 100. From these, Balding identified three resumes that indicated links between the company and the Chinese government.
One profile showed the employee as being a representative of the Ministry of State Security while being an R&D engineer with Huawei. This person was apparently tasked with planting information capture technology in the company’s products. Another employee at the company was previously hired at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC), a state firm that focuses on missile and space technologies. A third worker commented on his resume that he could not talk about his previous employer since it was involved in military secrets.
Balding admits that he does not have direct proof that the company itself was involved in espionage on behalf of the state. “However, I can say the CVs do talk of behavior such as information interception and we know of instances where a Huawei employee holds a dual position in the PLA Strategic Support Force which oversees the electronic warfare and similar non-traditional warfare units. So I cannot say it has been ordered, but the inference of positions and behavior they mention on their CVs appears to indicate they do engage in these acts,” he said in a statement (MSN).
Huawei has lashed out at the report, stating that they follow strict policies when hiring personnel with government or military backgrounds. The company reported only hiring employees who have cut off their ties with their previous work. “We have not been able to verify any of these so-called ‘Huawei Employee CVs’ Professor Christopher Balding is citing following our preliminary examination. As such, we cannot confirm the veracity of all of the information published online,” the company said in a statement (Telecoms).
In April, it was reported that the CIA had found evidence of Huawei receiving funds from the Chinese government. The agency apparently shared the information with counterparts in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. The company is said to have received the money from three sources — the PLA, the Central National Security Commission of the Communist Party of China, and a branch of the Chinese state intelligence network. An anonymous British source had claimed that details were only shared with top UK officials.
Though the U.S. has relaxed the ban on Huawei recently as a part of its trade deal with China, the company is still under the radar of American intelligence agencies and could be easily banned if found indulging in any suspicious activity. While a complete ban on Huawei products will definitely hit China, other countries who supply components to the company will also be negatively affected.
“Huawei sources some critical parts like Corning’s Gorilla Glass, Compeq’s PCBs, and Micron’s DRAM from the U.S. and those make up 16.3 percent of the build cost. However, it only makes up 0.9 percent of the total number of parts used… Parts from Chinese companies do make up 38.1 percent of the cost but, surprisingly, only provide 80 parts out of a recorded 1,631, just 4.9 percent… The bulk of parts actually come from Japan at 53.2 percent, followed by South Korea at 34.4 percent. Together, they make up about US$111.71 or 30.7 percent of the build cost,” according to Slash Gear.
In the U.K., a survey found that consumers had a high boycott rate for Samsung and Huawei devices. While exploding batteries were the reason for Samsung, majority of Britishers said goodbye to Huawei due to concerns about their spying activities.