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A man walks by a Huawei logo at a shopping mall in Shanghai in this file photo. Photo: Reuters

Denmark expels two Huawei workers over work permits, as Norway warns of espionage risk

  • Copenhagen police said the expulsions were not related to spying and came about as a result of a ‘routine check’ at Huawei’s offices
  • But neighbouring Norway’s intelligence service said it was attentive to ‘the close connections’ between Huawei and the Chinese government

Denmark has ordered the expulsion of two employees of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies because their residence and work permits were not in order, Copenhagen police said Monday.

“On Thursday, the Copenhagen police carried out a routine check of the residence and work permits,” at Huawei’s offices, a Copenhagen police source said.

“In two cases, the people did not have the proper paperwork.”

The pair, who were not identified, were ordered to leave the country, the source said.

Police said the expulsion of the two Huawei employees was in no way linked to espionage concerns.

But the move came on the same day that neighbouring Norway’s intelligence service issued a warning about Huawei, whose ties to Beijing have sparked security concerns.

“One has to be attentive about Huawei as an actor and about the close connections between a commercial actor like Huawei and the Chinese regime,” the head of Norway’s domestic intelligence unit PST, Benedicte Bjornland, said as she presented a national risk assessment report for 2019.

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“An actor like Huawei could be subject to influence from its home country as long as China has an intelligence law that requires private individuals, entities and companies to cooperate with China,” she said.

The Chinese embassy in Oslo swiftly responded by saying “China poses no threat to Norway’s security”.

“It’s very ridiculous for the intelligence service of a country to make security assessment and attack China with pure hypothetical language,” the embassy said in a statement on its website.

An option for China as it tries to help Huawei escape its mounting legal woes

The embassy also said China was not forcing any companies to build “mandatory back doors” in their software.

In Norway, the main telecoms operators Telenor and Telia – which chose Huawei to supply their 4G networks – are gearing up for the roll-out of 5G.

Several countries including the United States have banned Huawei 5G telecoms equipment for security reasons, on concerns its technology could be a Trojan horse for Beijing’s intrusive security apparatus, as Chinese law requires all firms to cooperate with the intelligence services. Norway is considering ways of limiting its exposure.

A woman uses her phone as she walks past a Huawei shop in Beijing in this file photo. Photo: Reuters

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s about setting up a regulatory framework to protect what could be considered critical infrastructure,” Noregian Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara said at the same news conference.

“What this regulatory framework would look like, and what it would cover, is what we’re working on right now,” he said.

Backchannels to Beijing close as detentions raise fears among old China hands

Norway is treading cautiously on the issue, after China’s angry reaction to the award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, which trigger lengthy diplomatic and trade repercussions from Beijing’s side.

Huawei, founded by former People’s Liberation Army engineer Ren Zhengfei, has become a leading supplier of the backbone equipment for mobile networks, particularly in developing markets, thanks to its cheaper prices.

Spearheading cutting-edge 5G equipment has also seen it make inroads into developed markets.

Huawei strenuously denies that its equipment could be used for espionage.

Additional reporting by Reuters