British lawmakers blast failure to monitor Huawei

British lawmakers hit out over possible risk to national security posed by Chinese firm

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 1:50am


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British lawmakers have blasted the government for risking national security by failing to monitor the widespread use of Chinese equipment in Britain's phone and broadband networks.

In a damning report into the potential threats posed by the Chinese telecoms company Huawei, lawmakers on the parliamentary intelligence and security committee highlighted the "apparent absence of any strategy" to monitor or react to state-sponsored security threats.

They said the government oversight was "feeble".

The committee is concerned about claims Huawei has links to the People's Liberation Army and the Chinese government and could be involved in spying on UK domestic communications or cyberattacks.

Huawei has been banned from doing business in the US and blacklisted from Australia's critical national infrastructure, but in the UK most e-mails sent and phone calls made are likely to involve its equipment.

It supplies mobile handsets, routers and equipment in telephone exchanges and street cabinets, equipment which the report says "permeates the national infrastructure".

About 20 per cent of detected cyberattacks against UK interests demonstrate levels of sophistication which indicate they are state-sponsored, with China considered a main perpetrator.

Huawei's founder, Ren Zhengfei, is a former PLA officer, but the company strenuously denies direct links with the Chinese government or military, claiming it receives no financial support and is almost entirely owned by its employees.

Committee member Hazel Blears, a former Labour cabinet minister, said: "We don't see any evidence of Huawei's equipment being used for espionage. We cannot prevent trade with foreign companies. The issue is risk management."

British Telecom gave Huawei its first foothold in the UK in 2005, hiring it to modernise the broadband network. But eight years later, a security centre in Banbury set up to clear Huawei for use is still not fully operational.