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Poland Arrests 2, Including Huawei Employee, Accused of Spying for China Huawei Employee Is Charged by Poland With Spying for Chinese Government
(35 minutes later)
The Polish authorities have arrested a Chinese employee of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, and a Polish citizen, and charged them with spying for Beijing, officials said on Friday, amid a push by the United States and its allies to restrict the use of Chinese technology based on espionage fears. LONDON The Polish authorities arrested two people, including a Chinese employee of the telecommunications giant Huawei, and charged them with spying for Beijing, officials said on Friday, as the United States and its allies move to restrict the use of Chinese technology because of concerns that it is being used for espionage.
The Huawei employee is head of the company’s sales in Poland, officials said; the other person arrested works for the French telecommunications company Orange. Both men pleaded not guilty and have refused to answer questions, the state television broadcaster, TVP, reported. The arrest of the Huawei employee is almost certain to escalate tensions between Western countries and China over the company, which authorities in the United States have accused of acting as an arm of the Chinese government and making equipment designed for spying.
Western intelligence agencies have repeatedly raised concerns that products made by Huawei and other Chinese companies, particularly cellphones and telecommunications equipment, have been designed to enable spying by Chinese intelligence. In December, the daughter of Huawei’s founder was arrested in Canada at the request of the United States, which said she had committed fraud as part of a scheme to violate American sanctions against companies doing business with Iran. It was unclear whether the arrests in Poland had been requested by the United States.
Huawei has been a leading contender to design the next-generation mobile networks in Europe and other parts of the world, but its expansion plans have repeatedly been hampered by Western security concerns. Europe is increasingly a battleground in the fight over Huawei. The company’s sales in the region have been growing, but many countries there now face pressure to reconsider its presence, particularly as construction begins for the next-generation wireless networks known as 5G. Germany, Britain, the Czech Republic and Norway are among the nations that have recently questioned how deeply Huawei should be involved in developing 5G infrastructure.
Polish law enforcement officers raided the homes and offices of the two suspects on Tuesday. The authorities then had to wait two days to obtain arrest warrants, a standard delay in Poland. Many of the countries adopting this stance are allies of the United States. Poland, specifically, is regarded by the State Department as “one of the United States’ strongest partners” in continental Europe. And Andrus Ansip, the European Union’s vice president, said last month that countries in the region should be “worried” about Huawei and other Chinese companies because of the cybersecurity risks they pose.
A Huawei spokesman said the company had no comment on the case, but insisted that the company “complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates.” Orange also declined to comment on the case, but confirmed that its office had been raided and the suspect’s belongings seized. Other countries face the same dilemma. In December, Japan banned Huawei from obtaining government contracts, and Australia and New Zealand have taken steps to block the company from being involved the building of 5G networks in those countries.
It is not the first time in recent months a Huawei employee has been arrested abroad. Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada last month at the request of the United States, where she had been charged with fraud designed to violate American sanctions on Iran. Ms. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, was freed on bail, pending a decision on whether to extradite her. “Picking sides may be unavoidable,” said Lukasz Olejnik, a research associate at the Center for Technology and Global Affairs at Oxford University, which studies the impact of technology on international relations. “This is a difficult policy conundrum.”
A 2012 report from United States lawmakers said that Huawei and another company, ZTE, were effectively arms of the Chinese government whose equipment was used for spying. Security firms have reported finding software installed on Chinese-made phones that sends users’ personal data to China. Huawei has long denied spying for the Chinese government. On Friday, a Huawei spokesman said the company had no comment on the arrest of its employee in Poland and insisted that it “complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates.” The second person arrested is an employee of the French telecommunications company Orange, which confirmed that its office had been raided and that the man’s belongings had been seized.
Last year, United States intelligence agencies told a Senate panel that Americans should not be using Chinese telecommunications products, and some major American retailers have stopped selling them. The Federal Communications Commission has said it will bar American telecommunications businesses from using equipment from any company deemed to pose a national security risk a move aimed primarily at Huawei and ZTE that will effectively shut them out of creating the next-generation mobile network known as 5G. “We are ready to cooperate with the Internal Security Agency and make any information it needs available,” the Orange spokesman, Wojciech Jabczynski, said.
Australia, Britain, the Czech Republic, Japan and New Zealand have also taken steps to limit the use of Huawei equipment and restrict the company’s role in 5G development. The arrests and raids in Poland opened a new front in the struggle to control Europe’s digital future. The Huawei employee arrested in Poland was identified by the authorities only as Weijing W. He was involved in the company’s sales operations in the country, officials said. According to Polish television, Weijing W. graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University with a degree in Polish studies and once worked at the Chinese Consulate in Gdansk, Poland. He began working for Huawei in 2011.
The Polish government identified the Huawei employee only as Weijing W. According to Polish television, Weijing W. graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University with a degree in Polish studies and once worked at the Chinese Consulate in Gdansk, Poland. He began working for Huawei in 2011. The Orange employee under arrest is a Polish citizen and was identified as Piotr D., a former agent of Poland’s internal security service.
Maciej Wasik, the deputy head of Poland’s special services, told the Polish Press Agency that the Polish suspect was identified as Piotr D., a former agent of Poland’s internal security service. The state broadcaster reported that he had had “access to key information,” including the “internal government system that allows to communicate secret information to the most important people in the country.” Polish law enforcement officers raided the homes and offices of the two men on Tuesday, officials said. The authorities then had to wait two days to obtain arrest warrants, typical for Poland. Officials did not offer details on the alleged crimes, but said the men would be held for three months while the investigation continues. Both have pleaded not guilty and have refused to answer questions, the Polish state television broadcaster, TYP, reported.
Officials did not offer details on the alleged criminal activity. Huawei was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former People’s Liberation Army engineer. The company’s equipment is the backbone of mobile networks around the world, and its smartphones are popular in Europe and China. Huawei has grown into China’s largest maker of telecom equipment, generating more than $90 billion in revenue in 2017.
The suspects will be held for three months while the authorities carry out their investigation, Mr. Wasik said. The company has been a leading contender to design 5G networks in Europe and other parts of the world, but the security concerns of Western countries have repeatedly hampered its expansion plans.
In a 2012 report, American lawmakers said Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE, were effectively arms of the Chinese government whose equipment was being used for espionage. Security firms have reported finding software installed on Chinese-made phones that sends users’ personal data to China.
For many years, the United States, where large mobile carriers such as AT&T have avoided using Huawei equipment in their networks, has presented the biggest obstacles to the company.
Last year, United States intelligence agencies told a Senate panel that Americans should not use Chinese telecom products, and some major American retailers have stopped selling them. The Federal Communications Commission is also considering whether to prohibit American telecom businesses from using equipment from any company deemed a national security risk, a move aimed primarily at Huawei and ZTE that will effectively shut them out of creating 5G mobile networks.
Huawei has focused on Europe instead, opening several research and development hubs in the region. More than a quarter of its 2017 revenue came from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Only the Chinese market is more important to the company.
Telecommunication companies in Europe have strong relationships with Huawei. Deutsche Telekom said in December that it had begun testing a 5G network in Poland using Huawei equipment. The company also has around a quarter of the market for smartphones in Poland, according to the technology research firm Canalys. That makes it the country’s second-largest phone seller after Samsung.
But the challenges facing Huawei in Europe are mounting.
British officials raised alarms about the companiy’s products last year. The Czech Republic’s cybersecurity watchdog has warned against using of Huawei and ZTE products. And just this week, Tor Mikkel Wara, Norway’s justice minister, told Reuters that “we share the same concerns as the United States and Britain and that is espionage on private and state actors in Norway.”
In Poland, at least one of the country’s main mobile carriers has been edging away from Huawei. The carrier, Play, has long relied on the company as an equipment supplier. And China Development Bank, a state-backed lender, has helped finance Play’s buying of Huawei equipment, according to the website of Lasanoz Finance, an advisory firm that says it worked on the deal. When Play listed its shares on the Warsaw stock exchange in 2017, it said Huawei had provided a “significant portion” of the equipment on its network.
But last July, as concerns about Chinese hardware grew, Play announced that it had chosen Ericsson as an additional supplier for certain components.
Poland and other countries that crack down on Huawei risk retaliation from China. Shortly after the Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder Mr. Ren, China detained two Canadian citizens last month and accused them of undermining China’s national security. China have since detained other Canadians. Ms. Meng has been freed on bail in Vancouver, British Columbia, pending a decision on whether she should be extradited to the United States.
“This will definitely increase tension in Europe,” said Christian Schmidkonz, a professor of Asian-Pacific business studies at the Munich School of Business.