Tell me Huawei: Chinese giant wants to know what made EU label it high security risk

Files official complaint as it battles to keep market share

Chinese tech megacorp Huawei is kicking back after EU officials characterized it as a "high-risk supplier," filing an official complaint with the European Commission.

The company was hit hard over the past few years by countries such as the UK and several European Union member states effectively putting a ban on Huawei equipment in their telecoms networks.

The situation for Huawei operations in the region wasn't helped by comments from European commissioner Thierry Breton earlier this year in a speech on the cybersecurity of 5G networks in the EU.

In a speech in June, Breton said that only 10 member states had so far used the EU's "5G cybersecurity toolbox" recommendations to restrict or exclude high-risk vendors such as Huawei and Chinese telecoms provider, ZTE, from their national infrastructure, and criticized the process as "too slow."

He then said the Commission would itself apply the 5G toolbox principles to its own procurement of telecoms services to avoid "exposure to Huawei and ZTE" and would emphasize to member states "the importance of speeding up decisions to replace high-risk suppliers from their 5G networks."

It has now emerged that Huawei filed a complaint about the comments, and claims that it did not get an answer from the European Commission. As such, it has raised the matter with the European Ombudsman, which investigates complaints about EU institutions.

"We confirm that the European Ombudsman, in response to our legal claims about the denigrating comments by the European Commission representatives on 15 June 2023 and their failure to reply, has requested the European Commission to respond to our claims," a spokesperson for Huawei said in a statement sent to The Register.

"Huawei strongly opposes and disagrees with the comments made by the European Commission representatives, publicly naming and shaming an individual company without legal basis, while lacking any justification or due process. We expect the European Commission to address our claims and rectify their comments," Huawei's spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the European Ombudsman sent us a statement: "We received a complaint from a telecoms operator concerning comments made by the European Commission about it on 15 June. We asked the Commission to reply to the telecom operator’s letter concerning these comments. We have not however opened an inquiry on the substance of what was said.

"It is not our policy to give out the name of complainants but I can say that this complaint has appeared in the media and been confirmed by the telecom operator itself," it told us.

Huawei has always denied being a threat to security, previously informing us that: "Huawei equipment is routinely and closely scrutinized by governments and relevant security agencies according to stringent cybersecurity standards. No evidence has ever been provided to show Huawei's equipment has backdoors."

But as we have pointed out before, Article 7 of China's National Intelligence Law requires its citizens and organizations to function as covert operatives of the state if ordered to, which means that as far as many nations are concerned, the potential threat is there.

As a consequence, Huawei has already suffered financial losses due to various sanctions against the company. Earlier in the year, it was revealed that its global profits dropped by 46 percent in the first quarter of 2023, while in the UK, the company's revenues were less than a third of their peak in 2018, for example.

Yet Huawei is doing well in its sizable home market, and recently caused a stir with the launch of a new premium smartphone – the Mate 60 Pro – indicating that it has managed to circumvent US efforts to stymie production.

According to Bloomberg, the combined value of 32 of Huawei's component and equipment suppliers has been boosted by about $34 billion since the launch of the phone, while Nikkei reports that some have seen their share prices jump by more than 400 percent. ®

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