Poland arrests Huawei worker on allegations of spying for China

Poland has arrested a Chinese employee of Huawei and a Polish national involved in cyber-business on allegations of spying, Polish state media has reported, deepening the controversy over western criticism of the Chinese telecoms company.

However, a spokesman for the Polish security services told Reuters the allegations related to individual actions, and were not linked directly to Huawei.

US intelligence agencies claim Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is linked to China’s government and its equipment could contain “backdoors” for use by government spies.

No evidence has been produced publicly and the company has repeatedly denied the allegations. But the criticism has led several western countries and businesses to consider whether they should allow Huawei’s equipment to be used in their telecoms networks. This has strained relations with Beijing.

The Polish public television channel TVP said security services had searched the local offices of Huawei, as well as those of the telecoms company Orange Polska, where it said the Polish national works.

China’s foreign ministry said it was greatly concerned by the reports and urged Poland to handle the case justly.

Huawei said: “We are aware of the situation and we are looking into it. Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, and we require every employee to abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where they are based.”

Orange Polska said the security agency had on Tuesday gathered materials related to an employee, whom it did not identify. The company added that it did not know if the investigation was linked to the employee’s professional work and it would continue to cooperate with authorities.

TVP said the security services also searched the premises of the Office of Electronic Communications, but the Polish telecoms regulator denied this.

In December, Canadian authorities arrested a Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, at the behest of US authorities as part of an investigation into alleged violations of trade sanctions, raising tensions with China at a time when Washington and Beijing are engaged in a broader trade war.

The west’s security concerns about Huawei and the Chinese telecoms equipment company ZTE Corp centre on China’s national intelligence law. Approved in 2017, the law states that Chinese “organisations and citizens shall, in accordance with the law, support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work”.

This has raised concerns that Huawei could be asked by the Chinese government to incorporate “backdoors” into their equipment, which would allow Beijing access, for spying or sabotage purposes. Some experts also fear Chinese intelligence agencies may develop a way to subvert Huawei’s equipment.

Norway said on Wednesday that it was considering whether to join other western nations in excluding Huawei from building part of the country’s 5G telecoms network.

Maciej Wąsik, the deputy head of Poland’s special services, told the state news agency PAP: “The Chinese national is a businessman working in a major electronics company … the Pole is a person known in circles associated with cyber-business.”

The arrested pair will be held for three months, PAP reported, citing the spokesperson for Poland’s head of special services.

TVP said the Polish national was a former agent of the internal security agency. The agency did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

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