US takes action against Huawei theft, Germany mulls restrictions

While Germany seeks to bar telecom giant from 5G build-out, US opens federal case

Huawei office in Warsaw, Poland

Huawei office in Warsaw, Poland (By AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following recent controversies that have seen Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei Technologies accused of spying, breaking sanctions, and stealing intellectual property, governments around the world are taking action.

The Wall Street Journal wrote Thursday morning that U.S. federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into Huawei for alleged intellectual property theft. The federal case has evolved from a civil suit involving the theft of technology developed by T-Mobile U.S. Inc. to test smartphones.

The device named in the suit was a robot called “Tappy” that simulates tapping-like actions on mobile phones with appendages modeled to represent human fingers. Huawei employees reportedly photographed the robot and attempted to steal some of its parts.

T-Mobile initially sued Huawei in 2014 for the actions of its employees and in May 2017 won US$4.8 million against the company, but this was only a fraction of what the mobile service provider sought.

In addition to this, The Wall Street Journal announced bipartisan lawyers have introduced bills that could prevent U.S. chip companies selling their products to Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corp and other Chinese telecom enterprises known to violate U.S. export laws and sanctions, according to Reuters.Among Chinese companies operating abroad, ZTE Corp and Huawei have been viewed with most suspicion by U.S. authorities, and some of ZTE’s actions became central to discussions of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.

The company was found to have violated U.S. law in 2016 for selling U.S. technology to Iran, was fined up to US$1.2 billion and instructed to penalize its workers. Instead of doing so, ZTE not only failed to reprimand those involved, but continued to pay them full bonuses, lying to U.S. authorities about its actions.

This led the U.S. to impose a seven-year ban on the company buying from local suppliers. ZTE Corp was projected to go under if it were not for President Donald Trump lifting the ban to facilitate further negotiations in the trade war.

Huawei has been accused of similar conduct—breaking U.S. sanctions by selling technology to Iran under a subsidiary company named Skycom.

The fiasco led to the arrest of executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada, after which a political stand-off erupted between China and the North American state. The most recent development involves China re-sentencing a Canadian citizen detained in the country to death, which the U.S. believes is entirely politically motivated.

Following a number of countries raising concerns about Huawei’s role in national fifth-generation (5G) network upgrades, Australia and New Zealand banning the company’s involvement, and Poland arresting a director on spying charges, Germany is also mulling how to ban Huawei from participating in the build-out of its 5G mobile network, Reuters reported Thursday morning.

The report says Germany is seeking to set security standards Huawei would not be able to achieve, indirectly blocking the company from participating in a 5G bid.

Regardless of what actions have or have not currently been taken, governments around the world appear to be increasingly hesitant to cooperate with Chinese corporations.