Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš hits back at Chinese diplomats’ Huawei and ZTE claims
- Andrej Babiš says he ‘does not know what ambassador is talking about’ after embassy says he told diplomats that ban on Huawei and ZTE equipment was a mistake
- Czech cybersecurity agency issues national security warning about using equipment from Chinese tech giants
The Czech prime minister has hit back at the Chinese embassy in Prague after it claimed he said he did not want to ban products made by Huawei and ZTE.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on Thursday that he took warnings about the two Chinese telecoms giants from the country’s cybersecurity watchdog “very seriously” and denied that he had told diplomats that the ban was a mistake.
“I do not know what the ambassador is talking about. His communication is … very unusual,” Czech Radio, a nation public broadcaster, quoted Babiš as saying.
The saga unfolded after the Czech National Cyber and Information Security Agency on December 17 warned against using Huawei and ZTE , saying they posed a national security threat.
Babiš subsequently announced that employees of the Czech government central administrative body would be barred from using Huawei and ZTE products, a ban copied by several other government ministries.
Babiš met Chinese ambassador Zhang Jianmin on Sunday to discuss the ban, and a subsequent statement by the embassy claimed that the prime minister had said the warnings did not represent the Czech government’s position.
“The Czech Republic welcomes foreign companies, including those from China, to operate and invest in the Czech Republic, and will provide a good operating environment for them,” he was quoted as saying.
“The hasty decision of the Czech government to stop using Huawei products was influenced by the misguided warning [of the cybersecurity body],” he allegedly said.
Zhang told Babiš that the warning had made a “very bad impact”, and asked the Czech government to protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies.
But Babiš said on Thursday that the statement “expressed the Chinese side’s opinion” and stressed that the ban was not a “mistake”.
The country’s security agency would present additional information to the government next month, he said.
The controversy is one of a growing number surrounding Chinese tech companies since the arrest in Canada of Huawei chief executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou.
British Defence Minister Gavin Williamson said on Thursday he had “grave, very deep concerns” about using Huawei equipment when the country starts upgrading its internet network to 5G next year.
Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian dismissed Williamson’s comments, saying they were groundless.
“The remarks just reinforced the deep-rooted ignorance, prejudice and anxiety among some British people,” he said.
US President Donald Trump is considering issuing an executive order to ban Huawei and ZTE products from the country.
The European Union’s technology commissioner Andrus Ansip has also warned member states, which include the Czech Republic, of the security risk surrounding Huawei, while leading telecoms firms in France, Germany and Britain are reassessing their use of Huawei equipment.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said allegations against the Chinese telecom companies were groundless and used as an excuse to block Chinese companies’ investment.