Photo: Reuters / Stringer

First it was ZTE, and now it is Huawei. The Chinese telecom giants have come under increased pressure during the past six months relating to national-security issues.

Back in February, leading US intelligence chiefs from the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency told the Senate Intelligence Committee they would advise Americans not to use products or services from Huawei or ZTE.

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” Chris Wray, the director of the FBI, told the committee.

“That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure,” he added. “It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

In a response, ZTE has denied the charges, while Huawei insisted it “poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor.”

Since then, ZTE has been found guilty of breaking last year’s deal concerning illegal telecom shipments to Iran and North Korea and banned from using suppliers in the US for seven years until last week’s reprieve from US President Donald Trump.

Huawei, which is China’s largest telecoms group, is also under US criminal investigation for allegedly violating Iran sanctions and now faces being frozen out of Australia’s fifth-generation mobile telecommunications rollout because of “security risks.”

On Monday, the company hit back, with John Lord, the chairman of Huawei’s Australian division, and board directors John Brumby and Lance Hockridge writing an open letter to the Canberra government.

“Recent public commentary around China has referenced Huawei and its role in Australia and prompted some observations around security concerns,” the letter said. “Many of these comments are ill-informed and not based on facts.

“In each of the 170 countries where we operate, we abide by the national laws and guidelines,” the letter added. “To do otherwise would end our business overnight.”

During the past few months, Huawei has come under fire as Australia prepares to announce a tender for its massive 5G mobile network.

Similar to the US, the country is concerned about security risks and the company’s close ties to Beijing. Already Canberra is preparing legislation designed to limit the Chinese government’s influence in domestic affairs.

Back in 2012, Huawei was banned from supplying Australia’s massive National Broadband Network. Then in May, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s administration committed millions of dollars to ensure the group did not build an Internet cable between Australia and the Solomon Islands.

Still, this latest move has left Huawei waiting for a call that will probably never come.

– additional reporting by Reuters

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