Huawei says US will harm billions of users with ‘illegal action’

Chinese tech giant’s chief legal officer says Trump administration is setting a ‘dangerous precedent’

Anthony Cuthbertson
Wednesday 29 May 2019 19:47 BST
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Huawei has called on the US to reverse its “illegal” trade ban on the company, claiming it will harm billions of consumers around the world.

The comments came after the US government placed Huawei on its “Entity List”, meaning US firms can’t do business with Huawei unless they have a special licence. The Chinese tech giant, which is the world’s largest maker of telecoms equipment and second largest smartphone maker, relies heavily on US firms like Google and Microsoft to build its equipment.

“Politicians in the US are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company,” Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer, said in a press conference in Shenzhen, China. “This is not normal.”

Huawei has also filed a motion for summary judgment asking a court in Plano, Texas, to rule on whether a US military spending provision that bars the government and its contractors from using Huawei equipment is constitutional.

The Trump administration claims the company could use its equipment to spy on behalf of the Chinese government and is thus a threat to international cybersecurity.

“This decision threatens to harm our customers in over 170 countries, including more than 3 billion customers who use Huawei products and services around the world,” Mr Song said.

Huawei, whose US headquarters is in Plano, launched a lawsuit in March against the US national defence law, calling the provision a “bill of attainder” that selectively punishes Huawei and violates its due process by presuming its guilt without a fair trial. The summary judgment motion seeks to accelerate the legal process to give US customers access to Huawei equipment sooner, according to a statement from Huawei on Wednesday.

Mr Song said the “state-sanctioned campaign” against the company will not improve cybersecurity. The moves against Huawei are part of a broader trade war between the world’s two largest economies that has both sides imposing billions of dollars of punitive tariffs against each other’s products.

The dispute centres on China’s huge longstanding trade surplus with the US, and complaints that Beijing and Chinese companies use unfair tactics to acquire advanced foreign technologies.

The most recent round of negotiations between Beijing and Washington ended earlier this month without an agreement after Trump more than doubled duties on $200bn (£158bn) in Chinese imports. China responded by raising tariffs of 5 per cent to 25 per cent on $60bn worth of American goods.

The moves against Huawei have already affected the company’s US partnerships. Google said it would continue to support existing Huawei smartphones, but future devices won’t carry its flagship apps and services, including maps, Gmail and search – a change that will likely make Huawei phones less appealing.

Mr Song said the US has not provided any evidence to show Huawei is a security threat. “There is no gun, no smoke, only speculation,” he said, accusing the US of setting a “dangerous precedent”.

“Today it’s telecoms and Huawei,” he said. “Tomorrow it could be your industry, your company, your consumers.”

Mr Song said Huawei was asking FedEx about four packages containing paper work that were found to have been diverted to FedEx headquarters in the US instead of being delivered to Huawei offices in Asia.

FedEx apologised and said the packages were rerouted accidentally. It said the company wasn’t told by anyone to divert the packages.

Mr Song said Huawei was aware of FedEx’s apology over the incident. But the company has questioned if the diversions were purely accidental.

“I don’t think it is right for any company to intercept or detain individual documents or information. If our rights were truly infringed upon, we have the legal rights to defend ourselves,” he said.

In the UK, networks have also responded to the trade ban by dropping Huawei phones from their 5G offerings.

Additional reporting from agencies

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