Huawei arrests in Poland show how Trump vs China tests Europe
As Poland added to the global scrutiny of Huawei Technologies Co on Friday with the arrest of a company employee and a local former security agent, the country’s authorities also exposed the division in Europe over policy toward the Chinese technology giant.
Huawei is facing increasing pressure across the European Union amid growing concerns that Beijing could use the company’s equipment for spying, something executives have denied. US President Donald Trump’s administration has been pushing European allies to block Huawei from telecom networks amid a wider dispute over trade with China.
While there’s little to suggest any political motive, the Warsaw government is a staunch ally of the US and the country is a prototype of Trump-style nationalism and protectionism. Poland relies on the EU for money, though counts on the Americans for security and US troops are stationed on its soil.
The dilemma is that Europe needs to develop its infrastructure somehow. Various countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Norway, have publicly raised concerns about using Huawei equipment for next-generation mobile networks. But others, like Spain, Portugal and Hungary, have been more welcoming to Chinese involvement.
“Europe is facing a challenge when it comes to dealing with Huawei and it shows that the continent doesn’t have the ability to be autonomous,” said Solange Ghernaouti, head of the Swiss Cybersecurity Advisory and Research Group. “Europe is either dependent on China or the US”
The Huawei employee detained in Poland is a Chinese citizen responsible for sales to public sector clients, television news channel TVPInfo said on Friday. The other detained person is a former high-ranking official at Poland’s Internal Security Agency who worked at mobile phone operator Orange Polska SA. They will remain in custody for three months.
Evidence shows that both men conducted espionage activities against Poland, Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for Poland’s secret services chief, said in a statement. If convicted, they face up to 10 years in jail, Zaryn said. When he tweeted the arrests in English, he included hashtags for the US Department of State, the FBI and CIA.
“For us, this specific investigation concerns two people,” he said later on Friday. “A separate issue is that of threats in the telecommunications industry. These are two separate issues.”
Poland’s cybersecurity chief, Karol Okonski, told RMF Radio that ideally the EU and NATO would be “as consistent as possible” on Huawei. He said the country is considering recommending caution toward the company, including potential exclusion from its IT market.
China is highly concerned over the issue, the press office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. “We are asking the related country to deal with the case fairly based on laws” and protect the legitimate rights of the people, it said.