UK to review involvement of Huawei in Oxfordshire cybersecurity centre, as firm denies spying claims

Review follows a report from the UK's Intelligence and Security Committee that raised security fears over influence of the Chinese government

The UK Government has announced plans to investigate the involvement of Chinese firm Huawei in the construction of a British cybersecurity base in Oxfordshire.

Huawei, the world’s second largest telecoms equipment manufacturer, have previously come under fire from US politicians because of the firm’s links to the Chinese government and military. It was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army.

Concerns were first raised after the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) published a critical report last month, urging the government to review security at the base, known as the Cell.

"While we recognise that there are some benefits associated with the current staffing arrangements for the Cell, these do not, in our opinion, outweigh the risks of Huawei effectively policing themselves," read the report.

It continued by suggesting that national security was being jeopardised because of the government’s fears of losing trade with Beijing.

George Osborne responded to the ISC report by stating that his priority was to boost trade, also drawing attention to the opening of a new Huawei office in Reading as a sign of a strong relationship between China and the UK.

Huawei themselves have welcomed the review, saying “Huawei shares the same goal as the UK government and the ISC (Intelligence and Security Committee of parliament) in raising the standards of cyber security in the UK.”

The company has denied having any close connections to the Chinese state, pointing to its 98.6% ownership by its employees as evidence of its independence.

Huawei has been denied major government contracts in the US following a congressional report last October that suggesting the company, along with ZTE, was a security threat.

However, the Chinese telecoms giant have had a steady presence in the UK since winning a multi-billion pound bit to supply equipment to BT in 2005.

The review of Huawei’s involvement will be carried out by National Security Advisor Kim Darroch. A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office has said: "We take threats to our critical national infrastructure very seriously and need to be responsive to changes in a fast-moving and complex, globalised telecommunications marketplace.”

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