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The Beijing-based professional society The China Computer Federation (CCF) has announced that it is suspending ties with the world’s largest engineers association based in the US. Photo: Shutterstock

China computer research body cuts ties with IEEE in protest at decision to bar Huawei from peer review

  • As part of the protest, the China Computer Federation said it would also delete some IEEE journals on its list

A Chinese computer professionals body announced that it is suspending ties with the world’s largest engineers association based in the US, as a controversy over the latter’s move to ban Huawei Technologies from peer reviewing research deepens.

The Beijing-based China Computer Federation said in a statement on Thursday that it would suspend “its communication and collaboration” with a division of the New York-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), just hours after the latter confirmed that it would bar Huawei employees from its peer preview process in order to comply with new US government restrictions.

As part of the protest, the CCF, which is listed as one of IEEE’s “sister societies” on its website, said it would also delete some IEEE journals on its list. The move came after at least two professors from China’s elite Peking University and Tsinghua University publicly announced their resignation from the IEEE in protest at its move to bar Huawei employees from the peer review process.

The IEEE storm comes as tensions between the world’s two-biggest economies spill over from trade into the tech space, scientific research and academia. The IEEE’s ban on Huawei employees may yet have bigger implications for wider scientific collaboration as an increasing number of Chinese people have taken to social media to call for a boycott of the IEEE and a move towards China’s own academic journals.

For its part, the IEEE released a statement this week saying it must meet its legal obligations under the laws of the US and other jurisdictions and that compliance with regulations “protects the IEEE, our volunteers, and our members”. It said Huawei employees are only barred from the peer review process and that they can continue to participate in a variety of other activities, including the submission of technical papers for publication.

In a post published on the Chinese social media site Weibo, the CCF said the IEEE was once considered an open international academic organisation. “But this time we regret to see that its Communications Society (ComSoc) has restricted its members’ activities based on local law, which seriously violates the open, equal and non-politicised basic principles of being an international academic organisation,” says the CCF post, which has been viewed more than 1 million times on Weibo.

Huawei had also been temporarily stripped of membership from the Wi-fi Alliance, the Bluetooth SIG, and the SD Association after the Trump administration barred US companies from working with the Chinese firm. But the three key tech associations have quietly restored Huawei's membership this week.

As part of its protest, the CCF is also urging its more than 50,000 members – mostly computer scientists – to not submit research papers to any conferences and journals organised by the IEEE Communications Society and not to take part in any of its peer review activities.

The post has received more than 1,700 “thumbs up” with comments including “nicely done” and “Chinese must fight back”.

Huawei said it had no comment about the peer review ban. The IEEE did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the CCF’s decision to cut ties with them.

Zhang Haixia, a professor with the Institute of Microelectronics at Peking University, who was the first prominent scientist to announce she was quitting the IEEE over its Huawei decision, said the association had gone “far beyond the basic line of science and technology” and challenged her professional integrity.

In a social media post on Thursday, she said the IEEE incident would more or less impact everyone, but she urged the public to be “calm and think about the issues independently”. “Make your own judgment and keep up your own work,” she said.

The professor declined to comment further on Friday when contacted by the Post.