9 Oct 2012

Government plays down fears over Huawei

4:36 pm on 9 October 2012

The Government says Opposition parties are painting a very misleading view of the situation with Chinese telecommunications company Huawei.

Huawei is established in Britain and Canada and has been contracted to upgrade New Zealand's broadband network.

However, Australia has blocked it from bidding for contracts and now the draft of a US congressional committee report says it should be shut out of the American market as potential Chinese state influence poses a security threat.

Huawei denies the allegations, saying the report is utterly lacking in substance.

The Greens, Labour and United Future parties have raised some concerns about the company, saying the Government should urgently look again at its contract to work in New Zealand.

Labour says the US report should be taken seriously, while Green MP Gareth Hughes says it should be treated as a wake-up call.

"Now we've got both Australia, and likely America, blocking this company over security and espionage concerns, the Government's got to take this seriously and put the interests of New Zealanders first," he says.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says China has a history of blatant intellectual property theft and concerns about Huawei must be investigated.

Mr Dunne says the concerns raised by the US need investigating but he has huge doubts about whether the Government Communications Security Bureau can do the work because of the Dotcom failures.

But acting Communications and IT Minister Steven Joyce said on Tuesday the fact is, Huawei is involved in telecommunications in more than 100 countries, and hundreds of millions of people use their technology.

"Huawei have had a long involvement with companies like Vodafone worldwide and 2Degrees as well in this country, so it's not like they're new to the telecommunications business.

"Different countries take a different view on the risk to their security at different times. I suppose it would be an example of where our sovereignty is very different to the US's where the political critics would sometimes say we're too close - now they're saying we're too far away - so they can't have it always."

US security concerns

The draft of a US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee report said that Huawei and another Chinese firm, ZTE, should be barred from any US mergers and acquisitions.

The two companies "cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems," the report said.

Committee chairman Mike Rogers said risks associated with these companies providing equipment and services to US critical infrastructure undermines core national security interests.

"We recommend that private network providers find other vendors. Government systems contractors should also exclude these companies' products," he told CNN.

Huawei and ZTE - among the world's biggest makers of networking equipment - denied the accusations in front of the US panel, the BBC reports.

Huawei's vice-president William Plummer said the latest accusations were dangerous political distractions.

"Purporting that Huawei is somehow uniquely vulnerable to cyber mischief ignores technical and commercial realities, recklessly threatens American jobs and innovation, does nothing to protect national security."

NZ telecom group not worried

A group representing telecommunications users on Tuesday dismissed the American report's concerns that Huawei may engage in spying and corrupt business activities.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen doesn't set much store by those concerns.

"I smell the awful hand of economic and political intrigue rather than any than real security threat," he told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme.

Meanwhile, British authorities have apparently given Huawei the all-clear. The Guardian newspaper's technology editor, Charles Arthur, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme he understands that British intelligence services checked out the company several years ago.