China’s Huawei dealt new blow — by Poland

Exec at tech giant and a Pol­ish se­cu­rity ex­pert are charged with spy­ing

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - VANESSA GERA AND KELVIN CHAN

WAR­SAW, POLAND — Poland has ar­rested a di­rec­tor at the Chi­nese tech giant Huawei and one of its own for­mer cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­perts and charged them with spy­ing for China, au­thor­i­ties said Fri­day.

The de­vel­op­ment comes as the United States is ex­ert­ing pres­sure on its al­lies not to use Huawei, the world’s big­gest maker of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work equip­ment, over data se­cu­rity con­cerns.

The two men — one a Chi­nese cit­i­zen who was a for­mer en­voy in Poland be­fore mov­ing over to a se­nior po­si­tion at Huawei and the other a Pole who held sev­eral top gov­ern­ment cy­ber­se­cu­rity po­si­tions — were ar­rested Tuesday, ac­cord­ing to Poland’s In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Agency.

Pol­ish se­cu­rity agents searched the War­saw of­fices of Huawei and Or­ange, Poland’s lead­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions provider, where the for­mer Pol­ish se­cu­rity ex­pert re­cently worked, seiz­ing doc­u­ments and electronic data.

The homes of both men, also in War­saw, were also searched, ac­cord­ing to agency spokesper­son Stanis­law Zaryn.

It’s the lat­est set­back for Huawei in Europe, where the com­pany has am­bi­tious plans to roll out next-gen­er­a­tion “5G” mo­bile net­works, which it is a leader in de­vel­op­ing.

The ar­rest is a fresh sign that a U.S. dis­pute with China over its ban on the com­pany is spilling over to Europe, Huawei’s big­gest for­eign mar­ket.

Some Euro­pean gov­ern­ments and tele­com com­pa­nies are fol­low­ing the U.S. lead in ques­tion­ing whether us­ing Huawei for vi­tal in­fra­struc­ture for mo­bile net­works could leave them ex­posed to snoop­ing by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

Ma­ciej Wasik, deputy head of Poland’s Spe­cial Ser­vices agency, said the op­er­a­tion that re­sulted in the ar­rests of the two sus­pects had been un­der­way for a long time. He said “both car­ried out es­pi­onage ac­tiv­i­ties against Poland.”

Zaryn said pros­e­cu­tors have charged the two men with es­pi­onage, but agents are con­tin­u­ing to col­lect ev­i­dence and in­ter­view wit­nesses. Fur­ther in­dict­ments are ex­pected, he said.

He said no fur­ther de­tails would be re­leased about the case be­cause it is clas­si­fied and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing.

Pol­ish state tele­vi­sion TVP re­ported the men have pro­claimed their in­no­cence, but Zaryn said he could not con­firm that. If con­victed, they could each face up to 10 years in prison.

TVP iden­ti­fied the ar­rested Chi­nese man as Wei­jing W., say­ing he was a di­rec­tor in Poland at Huawei. It said he also went by the Pol­ish first name of Stanis­law and had pre­vi­ously worked at the Chi­nese con­sulate in Gdansk.

A LinkedIn pro­file for a man named Stanis­law Wang ap­pears to match de­tails of the man de­scribed by Pol­ish tele­vi­sion.

Wang’s re­sumé said he worked at China’s Gen­eral Con­sulate in Gdansk from 2006-2011 and at Huawei En­ter­prise Poland since 2011, where he was first di­rec­tor of pub­lic af­fairs and since 2017 the “sales di­rec­tor of pub­lic sec­tor.”

State TV iden­ti­fied the Pol­ish man as Piotr D., and said he was a high-rank­ing em­ployee at the In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Agency, where he served as deputy di­rec­tor in the de­part­ment of in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity, un­til 2011.

The Pol­ish state news agency, PAP, said the man had also held top cy­ber­se­cu­rity po­si­tions at the In­te­rior Min­istry and the Of­fice of Electronic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a reg­u­la­tory body that over­sees cy­ber and other telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions is­sues.

While at the In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Agency, it said, he was in­volved in build­ing a mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem for top Pol­ish of­fi­cials, and he was fired in 2011 amid a ma­jor cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

Geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions over Huawei have in­ten­si­fied since Canada ar­rested a top ex­ec­u­tive at Van­cou­ver air­port last month at the re­quest of U.S. au­thor­i­ties.

China sub­se­quently de­tained Michael Kovrig and Michael Spa­vor, two Cana­di­ans liv­ing in China, on al­le­ga­tions they were harm­ing China’s national se­cu­rity. They were ar­rested sep­a­rately and re­main in cus­tody.

The com­pany has been blocked in the U.S. since 2012 over fears its equip­ment is a se­cu­rity risk, and last year Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Ja­pan in­sti­tuted their own bans against us­ing Huawei.

The com­pany and an­a­lysts have long main­tained it has never been found guilty of a cy­ber­se­cu­rity breach.

“One thing is clear: this is an­other nail in the cof­fin of Huawei’s Euro­pean am­bi­tions,” said Thorsten Ben­ner, di­rec­tor of the Global Pub­lic Policy In­sti­tute, a think­tank.

Huawei’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, Meng Wanzhou, was ar­rested Dec. 1 in Canada in con­nec­tion with U.S. ac­cu­sa­tions that the com­pany vi­o­lated re­stric­tions on sales of Amer­i­can tech­nol­ogy to Iran.

The United States wants Meng ex­tra­dited to face charges. She is out on bail in Canada.

CZAREK SOKOLOWSKI THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Huawei logo at the main of­fice of Chi­nese tech giant Huawei in War­saw, Poland, on Fri­day.

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