Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi turned up the volume in the war of words over Huawei when he warned that the telecom giant would not be a “silent lamb to the slaughter.”
He confirmed on Friday that President Xi Jinping’s administration would “take all necessary measures” to defend the rights and interests of domestic companies such as Beijing’s high-tech poster child, which is locked in a legal battle with the US government.
“It is not difficult to see that the recent actions against specific Chinese enterprises and individuals are not just judicial cases, but deliberate political suppression,” Wang told a media conference on the sidelines of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing.
“We have and will continue to take all necessary measures to resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and citizens [in refusing to be] silent lambs to the slaughter,” he added, without disclosing what measures Beijing would take.
Wang’s comments came just 24 hours after the embattled telecom group announced it would sue the US after being barred from selling its products to American government agencies.
It also follows a high-profile public relations campaign by Huawei to counter warnings from Washington that the company’s latest 5G (fifth-generation wireless) networks and equipment pose a security risk.
“The US Congress has repeatedly failed to produce any evidence to support its restrictions on Huawei products. We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort,” Guo Ping, the rotating chairman of Huawei, said in a statement on Thursday.
“If this law is set aside, as it should be, Huawei can bring more advanced technologies to the United States and help it build the best 5G networks.”
The dispute has escalated since Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1.
She now faces a May 8 hearing and could eventually be extradited from Canada to the US for violating Iran sanctions, accusations that have also been leveled against Huawei. They have both denied the charges.
Still, Washington has warned that the group’s 5G systems could be manipulated by Beijing to spy on other countries and disrupt critical communications.
Last year, the US Justice Department announced sweeping charges against Huawei, including bank fraud, obstruction of justice and technology theft. Again, the company has denied the allegations.
“[They] expose Huawei’s brazen and persistent actions to exploit American companies and financial institutions, and to threaten the free and fair global marketplace,” Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said at the end of January.
In the past decade, the Shenzhen-based tech firm has become a key player in the global rollout of super-fast 5G, while its smartphones have broken the stranglehold of Apple and Samsung in the consumer sector.
Yet for years, the US has been suspicious of Huawei’s links to Beijing, without providing specific evidence.
In response, the group has denied it poses a security risk.
“The US government is sparing no effort to smear the company,” Guo said, claiming that American government agencies “had hacked” into “servers and stolen e-mails and source code,” without revealing detailed information.
As China fights back, Wang’s intervention will only add fuel to a red-hot debate that threatens to boil over into a technology war between the world’s two largest economies.