A handful of Huawei executives testified in front of the Commons’ Science and Technology Committee on Thursday morning, to discuss the UK’s network infrastructure and the recent moves to reduce the firm’s role in our 5G network, over security concerns.
Presumably the Huawei representatives were hoping to convince the committee and the wider world that their company is no different to any other network supplier, and that the Chinese state has no undue influence over them.
That rather came undone though in a sustained grilling by committee chair Greg Clark. After one executive suggested that Huawei was no different to a company like BT, Clark asked if that meant Huawei employees were free to express their views. When he was assured by Jeremy Thompson, Vice President of Huawei UK that they were, Clark then asked if he had an opinion on the new National Security Law being imposed on Hong Kong. The new law, designed to crack down on protests in the region, has made ‘secession’, ‘subversion’, and ‘collusion with foreign forces’ a crime, which can lead to life imprisonment.
A visibly uncomfortable Thompson at first said he didn’t have a view, before suggesting that it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to comment as a representative of Huawei. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the panel did not feel it was right to give their opinion either.