UK can't stop China's 'misuse of data' if Huawei 5G deal goes ahead, US ambassador to London warns

Christopher Hope
·2 min read
Huawei - Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Huawei - Mark Schiefelbein/AP

The UK cannot stop China's "misuse of data" if it continues to allow Huawei into its nascent 5G mobile network, Donald Trump's ambassador to London has warned.

Mr Johnson is understood to be planning an about-turn on his decision to allow the Chinese infrastructure firm's involvement in Britain’s 5G network in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, after strong criticism from the US, Australia and other countries, as well as senior Tory MPs.  

Robert Wood Johnson, the US ambassador in the UK, warned that "trust, especially in something as important as a 5G network, cannot exist with a company such as Huawei that answers to an authoritarian government like China’s".

Writing on July 4 - America's Independence Day in Saturday's Telegraph - Mr Johnson added: "There is simply no way to prevent China’s misuse of data.

"The Chinese Communist Party acquires technology and intellectual property through licit and illicit means, through collaboration and deception, by state-subsidised investment and joint research, but also through outright theft."

He added: "The United States, therefore, is deeply concerned about the serious risk companies like Huawei pose to US national security and the security of advanced technology producing countries like the United Kingdom.  It is far better to strengthen ties to trusted vendors and countries who believe in free, fair, and balanced trade."

Mr Johnson also paid tribute to the Special Relationship between the UK and US, describing it as "an enduring friendship built on the ideals that define both our countries -- freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and human dignity.  These values guarantee our shared prosperity and security, and make the Special Relationship a global force for good".

Victor Zhang, a Vice President at Huawei, said: "These accusations are categorically untrue and we note that, yet again, the US has failed to provide any evidence to support its claims against Huawei. We will invest £20 billion this year in R&D, that’s where our tech leadership comes from.  

“We have worked closely with the National Cyber Security Centre here in the UK for the past ten years to ensure the highest level of transparency and security.   

“Our sole focus remains the roll out of secure and reliable 5G across the UK”.

In January, Mr Johnson allowed Huawei in future 5G networks, as long as the Chinese company was declared a “high-risk vendor” and therefore subject to a 35 per cent cap on its share of the market. However critics argue that a Chinese company poses an unacceptable long-term security risk to western phone network.