Huawei turns on legal warcraft

Top News | 8 Mar 2019

Tech giant Huawei has opened a legal front in its counter-offensive against US warnings that it could aid Chinese intelligence services, filing suit to overturn a US law that bars federal agencies from buying its products.

Huawei said the case was filed in a US District Court in Plano, Texas, challenging what it called an "unconstitutional" 2019 defense bill that prevents government agencies from buying its equipment, services, or working with third parties that are Huawei customers.

The move may send a global signal that Huawei is willing to use all means, including national courts, to prevent exclusion from a race to the 5G market -- the future of high-speed telecommunications.

"The US Congress has repeatedly failed to produce any evidence to support its restrictions on Huawei products. We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort," Huawei's rotating chairman Guo Ping said at a news conference at Huawei's headquarters in Shenzhen. He said the firm is seeking unspecified damages.

"The US government is sparing no effort to smear the company," Guo added. He also said the US government "has hacked our servers and stolen our e-mails and source code" without providing details.

Washington has long considered Huawei a potential threat due to the background of founder Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese army engineer. The concerns have escalated as Huawei has risen to become the world leader in telecom networking equipment and one of the top smartphone manufacturers alongside Samsung and Apple.

A law recently enacted by Beijing that obliges Chinese companies to aid the government on national security has added to the concerns.

Huawei's lawsuit targets an "unconstitutional exercise of executive and/or judicial power" that deprived it of a "fair hearing" to rebut allegations against it.

Huawei is expected to play a key role in the coming rollout of ultra-fast 5G networks that will allow wide adoption of next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence.

The clash is heightened by ongoing US-China trade talks and the December arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, Ren's daughter. A Canadian court set a May 8 date for the start of Meng's hearing into a US extradition request over charges that she and Huawei circumvented US sanctions against Iran. Two Huawei affiliates also have been charged with stealing trade secrets from telecom group T-Mobile.

Huawei officials said it had never received any request from Beijing to install security "backdoors" in its equipment or to gather intelligence.

Chief legal officer Song Liuping said Chinese laws may require Huawei to heed government requests for assistance but said it would only do so in matters such as terrorism or criminal activity.

It was unclear how much impact the lawsuit would have, however, as US President Donald Trump could merely issue an executive order to block Huawei in the United States.

Guo suggested the effort to contain Huawei was related more to commercial competition than security issues.

Huawei equipment is seen as considerably more advanced than 5G competitors such as Sweden's Ericsson or Finland's Nokia, while no US company is considered a serious Huawei rival.

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

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