Posted on: New York Times | January 11th, 2019
Author: Joanna Berendt

The Polish authorities have arrested a Chinese employee of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, and a Polish citizen, and charged them with spying for Beijing, officials said on Friday, amid a push by the United States and its allies to restrict the use of Chinese technology based on espionage fears.

The Huawei employee is head of the company’s sales in Poland, officials said; the other person arrested works for the French telecommunications company Orange. Both men pleaded not guilty and have refused to answer questions, the state television broadcaster, TVP, reported.

Western intelligence agencies have repeatedly raised concerns that products made by Huawei and other Chinese companies, particularly cellphones and telecommunications equipment, have been designed to enable spying by Chinese intelligence.

Huawei has been a leading contender to design the next-generation mobile networks in Europe and other parts of the world, but its expansion plans have repeatedly been hampered by Western security concerns.

Polish law enforcement officers raided the homes and offices of the two suspects on Tuesday. The authorities then had to wait two days to obtain arrest warrants, a standard delay in Poland.

A Huawei spokesman said the company had no comment on the case, but insisted that the company “complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates.” Orange also declined to comment on the case, but confirmed that its office had been raided and the suspect’s belongings seized.

It is not the first time in recent months a Huawei employee has been arrested abroad. Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada last month at the request of the United States, where she had been charged with fraud designed to violate American sanctions on Iran. Ms. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, was freed on bail, pending a decision on whether to extradite her.

A 2012 report from United States lawmakers said that Huawei and another company, ZTE, were effectively arms of the Chinese government whose equipment was used for spying. Security firms have reported finding software installed on Chinese-made phones that sends users’ personal data to China.

Last year, United States intelligence agencies told a Senate panel that Americans should not be using Chinese telecommunications products, and some major American retailers have stopped selling them. The Federal Communications Commission has said it will bar American telecommunications businesses from using equipment from any company deemed to pose a national security risk — a move aimed primarily at Huawei and ZTE that will effectively shut them out of creating the next-generation mobile network known as 5G.

Australia, Britain, the Czech Republic, Japan and New Zealand have also taken steps to limit the use of Huawei equipment and restrict the company’s role in 5G development. The arrests and raids in Poland opened a new front in the struggle to control Europe’s digital future.

The Polish government identified the Huawei employee only as Weijing W. According to Polish television, Weijing W. graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University with a degree in Polish studies and once worked at the Chinese Consulate in Gdansk, Poland. He began working for Huawei in 2011.

Maciej Wasik, the deputy head of Poland’s special services, told the Polish Press Agency that the Polish suspect was identified as Piotr D., a former agent of Poland’s internal security service. The state broadcaster reported that he had had “access to key information,” including the “internal government system that allows to communicate secret information to the most important people in the country.”

Officials did not offer details on the alleged criminal activity.

The suspects will be held for three months while the authorities carry out their investigation, Mr. Wasik said.

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