Huawei is taking on U.S. officials in court—and in the court of public opinion.
The U.S. Commerce Department has put the Chinese telecom giant on a list of organizations deemed to pose a risk to national security. The designation bars them from receiving technology or information from U.S. companies unless it’s specifically approved by U.S. authorities.
After Huawei was placed on the list, major companies including Google cut ties with it, and some countries have walked back plans to introduce its products.
Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms network gear maker, has repeatedly denied it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo kept up pressure on Huawei on Wednesday.
“Huawei is an instrument of the Chinese government,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox Business Network. “They’re deeply connected. It’s something that’s hard for Americans to understand.”
Now the company is pushing hard in the courts to reverse the government’s decision, and it’s trying to appeal to the public through news conferences and op-eds.
The Chinese telecommunications giant filed a motion on Tuesday in the United States to accelerate its lawsuit against the White House, which it filed in March in a federal court in Texas. The request for summary judgment could expedite an outcome without the costs and time of a full trial, including avoiding handing over sensitive corporate information during the discovery process. It also could give the company a chance to present its arguments publicly in front of a judge in just a few months rather than wait for a trial to unfold.
To announce its filing, Huawei’s legal team turned to the American news media twice. Huawei’s chief legal officer, Song Liuping, laid out the company’s argument for the motion in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that appeared on Monday. Then on Wednesday in China, the company hosted a news conference at its headquarters in the city of Shenzhen.
“The U.S. government has provided no evidence to show that Huawei is a security threat,” Mr. Song said. “There is no gun, no smoke. Only speculation.”
The company also hopes to influence U.S. consumers, arguing that the government’s policies will affect some U.S. internet users.
The New York Times continued:
In the news conference on Wednesday, Huawei also argued that growing limits on American purchases of Huawei equipment hurt American consumers. In a separate move, Mr. Trump earlier this month issued an executive order banning American telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security. The order did not mention China or Huawei but still works as an effective ban on its products.
Mr. Song said the actions against Huawei took away the freedom of choice for American carriers and consumers, and it would disproportionately damage rural areas. While major American carriers do not use Huawei equipment, the low prices of Huawei technology has made it critical for smaller carriers seeking to connect more remote parts of America.
Some experts see Huawei’s effort as doomed to fail, and they predict harsh consequences if the company remains cut off from U.S. technology.
Huawei says it has been stockpiling inventory and diversifying its supply chain for years, in anticipation of being cut off from US suppliers.
But experts say being unable to source US parts and components for too long would be crippling. Huawei is a leader in 5G technology, and the trade blacklist could also make it difficult to continue rolling out the ultra-fast wireless tech globally.
Song said being on the blacklist would hurt “more than 3 billion customers” of Huawei in over 170 countries, including in the United States where it still works with some rural operators.
“Connectivity is a basic human right, and the US government is putting their rights at risk,” he said.
Other representatives for Huawei have taken a less aggressive stance, conceding that the firm might have made mistakes regarding intellectual property.
Andy Purdy, chief security officer at Huawei Technologies USA, signaled on CNBC Wednesday the Chinese telecom giant may be open to taking steps to address U.S. national security concerns.
“In different countries in the world, we negotiate with respective governments on what kind of assurance framework they need,” Purdy told “Squawk Box.” Some measures, he said, might include requirements around selling to government or to critical infrastructure projects. While saying he cannot prejudge any possible conditions, Purdy said he would be “astounded if we weren’t open to those kinds of risk mitigation measures.”
Huawei hopes to deflect the allegation that the company is an arm of the Chinese government, placing blame for the current rancor on U.S.-China political relations.
Purdy, who formerly served as a top-ranking cybersecurity official for Homeland Security, said U.S. officials have not been “willing to talk” to Huawei. “The geopolitical context between the U.S. and China is why we’re in this situation.”
The Huawei attorney Nager said the Trump administration needs to “ramp down the rhetoric,” adding that “the U.S. is worried more about the country China than the company Huawei.”
Responding to a question about this weekend’s Wall Street Journal report with the headline “Huawei’s Yearslong Rise Is Littered With Accusations of Theft and Dubious Ethics,” Purdy told CNBC, “I don’t forgive acts that have happened in the past,” he said. “Despite those, our allies have decided to push back on tremendous pressure from the U.S. government because they believe the national security threats can be addressed.”
What do you think of Huawei’s campaign, PR Daily readers?