The US has accused the Chinese Communist Party of “coercive bullying tactics” towards the UK as the British government reassesses its decision to allow Huawei a role within 5G networks.
The reassessment follows new sanctions in the US which would prohibit the Chinese telecommunications company from using any computer chips designed by American firms, and not just those manufactured in the US.
Huawei warned the move might put it out of business. Almost all semiconductors on the market – which are essential across the whole of Huawei’s product line, from radio base stations to servers and smartphone – contain US intellectual property.
Preparing for the impact of such an embargo, which might eventually result in an increase of Chinese-developed computer chips across the UK’s critical national infrastructure, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre said it was re-evaluating whether it can still manage the risks that using Huawei equipment posed.
In a statement on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “Beijing has reportedly threatened to punish British bank HSBC and to break commitments to build nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom unless London allows Huawei to build its 5G network.”
Huawei was “an extension of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state” alleged Mr Pomeo, an accusation which the US has made consistently for a number of years – although without any evidence, in marked contrast to indictments targeting Russian state espionage actors.
He added that China’s “browbeating of HSBC, in particular, should serve as a cautionary tale” – noting that the threats against the bank came despite a senior executive signing a petition “supporting Beijing’s disastrous decision to destroy Hong Kong‘s autonomy”.
“That show of fealty seems to have earned HSBC little respect in Beijing, which continues to use the bank’s business in China as political leverage against London,” added Mr Pompeo.
Boris Johnson has pledged to allow nearly three million Hong Kong citizens the right to live and work indefinitely in the UK, with a route to full citizenship, if China imposes a new national security law on the city.
“Beijing’s aggressive behaviour shows why countries should avoid economic over-reliance on China and should guard their critical infrastructure from CCP influence,” he added.
“The United States stands ready to assist our friends in the UK with any needs they have, from building secure and reliable nuclear power plants to developing trusted 5G solutions that protect their citizens’ privacy.”
“Free nations deal in true friendship and desire mutual prosperity, not political and corporate kowtow,” Mr Pompeo added.