Huawei has hit back at comments made by former Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull that allowing the Chinese giant to build Britain’s 5G network would hamper the ability of ‘Five Eyes’ nations to share intelligence.
In an interview at BBC’s Radio 4 World at One, Turnbull said that fact that the other Eyes — the other parties to that Five Eyes relationship — are taking a different approach indicates it would become an issue if the UK was to go with Huawei.
Huawei Australia director of corporate affairs Jeremy Mitchell said that in over 15 years in Australia it has never had any cyber security issues.
“During our engagement with the Turnbull government we made it absolutely clear we would take whatever measures were necessary to mitigate any perceived risks identified.
“Indeed, our founder Ren Zhengfei has made it quite clear that he would rather shut down the entire company than take any actions from any government that would harm the interests of our customers,” Mitchell said.
“Huawei has worked closely with security agencies around the world to help find solutions on risk mitigation on 5G and are always willing to do so with Australian security agencies.”
During the interview, Turnbull said that the real question around choosing or not to use Huawei’s 5G was “whether this is a loaded gun and if you want to have that risk”.
He said that under the Chinese law, their telcos are obliged to assist their intelligent services from a national security point of view.
“Do you want to give China the capability to materially interfere with what will become one of the most fundamental technological platforms of your modern economy? Do you want to give that capability to do that?” Turnbull asked.
“The real issue is network availability. If you have another party who may not always have your best interest at heart choosing to shut down or remove access to a part of your economy, a part of your network, that is a very fundamental risk.”
Turnbull said that Australia’s decision to bar Huawei was because it concluded there was no satisfactory mitigation of the risk.
Mitchell said it was disappointing the former PM continues to rely on factually incorrect information when commenting on the government’s decision to exclude Huawei from delivering 5G in Australia.
“Following the 5G ban Turnbull told Australians that the ban was imposed because 5G technology required a different network architecture to 4G networks but real world 5G deployments have now shown that to be completely false,” Mitchell said.
Turnbull explained that he is not saying that Huawei is doing anything wrong or has any bad intentions but a “threat is the combination of capability and intent. Intent can change in a heartbeat.”
He also said that the UK would of course be vulnerable if it chose to go ahead and use the Chinese technology company to develop the country’s 5G communication network.
Turnbull also criticised the Five Eyes nations for allowing the most powerful telecommunications companies being two Chinese and two Scandinavian companies.