In response to spying allegations, Chinese tech company Huawei takes U.S. government to court.
The lawsuit is primarily directed against a ban that prohibits authorities in the U.S. from purchasing and using Huawei technology and services.
A related law signed by U.S. President Donald Trump last year is "not only unlawful, but also prevents Huawei from competing fairly," the company’s acting chairman Guo Ping said Thursday at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen in southern China. The lawsuit was filed in a U.S. District Court in Plano in the state of Texas.
Observers saw the intended lawsuit primarily as a symbolic step by the network equipment and smartphone provider. While there is not much chance of success, he said. Huawei wants to set a public sign against the reproaches of the USA and demonstrate resistance. This is also to regain trust in other countries.
Currently, there is discussion in the West, including in Germany, about an exclusion of Huawei from the construction of the networks of the super-fast 5G data radio. Based on accusations, mainly from the U.S., that Huawei is too close to the Chinese government and can be forced to cooperate by authorities in the country.
The fears here range from espionage in the networks to sabotage. Huawei has always denied the accusations.
"The U.S. Congress has repeatedly failed to provide evidence that would justify restrictions on Huawei products," Guo Ping said. "We are forced to take these legal measures as an appropriate and last resort."According to Huawei, US authorities are not only prohibited from using Chinese technology. They are also prohibited from entering into contracts with third parties that purchase Huawei products, it said. The action violates the U.S. Constitution.
Specifically, the group is taking action against Section 899 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). "The law was based on numerous false, unproven and unverified statements," said Huawei’s chief lawyer Song Liuping. Contrary to insinuations, Huawei is not owned, controlled or influenced by the Chinese government.
Huawei is also currently under pressure in the U.S. over the affair involving the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei: Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, is detained in Canada under strict conditions. The U.S. has requested their extradition. She is accused of bank fraud in the violation of sanctions against Iran.
The case severely strains relations between Canada and China. After their arrest, two Canadians were detained in China – former diplomat and working for the independent International Crisis Group Michael Kovrig and businessman and Korea expert Michael Spavor. China’s authorities accuse them of espionage. Diplomats and critics suspect retaliation and speak of "hostage diplomacy".
The press conference held by Guo Ping on Friday was part of a public relations offensive by the world’s largest network equipment maker and second-largest handset maker, which hopes to rebut U.S. allegations.
The Huawei chairman had already hit back last week when he publicly recalled the revelations of U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden at a trade show in Barcelona. In 2013, ex-intelligence contractor Snowden had revealed the extensive surveillance of the Net by Anglo-American intelligence agencies NSA and GCHQ. Guo Ping on Thursday repeated accusations that the U.S. had also spied on Huawei and hacked into the company’s servers.
The U.S. government "never misses an opportunity to vilify Huawei," he said. In the process, people in America would also benefit from cooperation. "If this law is repealed, Huawei will be able to offer more advanced technologies in the United States and help build the best 5G networks."The current restrictions would delay the commercial deployment of 5G and negatively impact the performance of 5G networks in the U.S.
Just Tuesday, Huawei opened a new European cybersecurity transparency center in Brussels. The company, which has come under suspicion of cyber espionage, also wants to provide a platform there for government agencies, technical experts, industry associations and standards bodies to work together on future standards. Above all, Huawei is likely to want to allay the security concerns that have grown in Europe as well.