Throughout the conflict between Washington and Huawei, a central theme has been the alleged connections between the company and state defense and intelligence agencies in China. The theory goes that the company has links and is obliged, under Chinese national security legislation, to collaborate with the state when asked to do so—and, where the company is supplying core networking equipment to overseas countries, that this carries clear risk.
Along with the question of hidden backdoors in hardware and software products, it is these state security links that Huawei has gone to the greatest lengths to deny. But the debate will now intensify again, after the Telegraph reported on Saturday (July 6) that “Huawei staff have admitted to having worked with Chinese intelligence agencies in a ‘mass trove’ of employment records leaked online.”
The investigation—conducted by the Henry Jackson Society, a think tank that has warned on Huawei before—claimed this was indicative of “far closer links between the telecommunications company and military-backed cyber agencies than previously thought.”
Huawei, understandably, responded to point out that almost all companies of its size in the telecoms sector will have former government employees on staff. In this case, that’s an entirely reasonable claim. But, because for Huawei alleged connections with the state are so contentious, such employee links in this instance will resonate differently.
A Washington Post opinion piece, also this week, commented on the same issue, saying that “that Huawei maintains ties to the military in its home country isn’t unusual—it’s true for all telecommunications giants,” the problem is that Huawei has been “dishonest” about its links—”the existence of the ties are not as worrying as the lengths Huawei and Beijing go to keep them secret.”