Taiwan is taking cues from the US on how to clamp down on Huawei and other major electronics companies, with a blacklist of Chinese companies and products soon to be gazetted by the Executive Yuan.
The big names on the upcoming list include Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi, Oppo and Zhejiang-based CCTV and surveillance system manufacturer Hikvision, whose overseas business has been weighed down by controversies and espionage accusations. As well, Taiwan’s national security experts are understood to have also identified a number of tech startups and suppliers that may pose a significant threat to the island.
Blacklisted firms will be banned from bidding on any government procurement orders.
Huawei is being blacklisted because of its alleged close dealings with the People’s Liberation Army, ZTE for its alleged involvement in cyberespionage in the US and Hikvision due to the use of its surveillance cameras to monitor Uighurs in Xinjiang as well as dissidents elsewhere across China.
But a source told the Liberty Times that the government was undecided on whether laptops, PCs and workstations made by Lenovo should be added to the list, and that experts had failed to reach a consensus on how to regulate apps, platforms and services by Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu and JD.com.
The source declined to reveal the number of Chinese tech firms already on the list, adding only that the list and procurement guidelines would be reviewed and updated from time to time.
The evaluation and deliberation is led by a minister without portfolio, who has convened a series of interagency meetings to draft the list.
Meanwhile, councillors in the central city of Taichung have identified numerous Hikvision CCTV cameras in use along the city’s Taiwan Avenue, a major thoroughfare running through the city, as well as inside underpasses and on footbridges.
They found that the municipal government’s agreements with surveillance system contractors did not request them to procure products other than those made in China, and such agreements would be deemed illegal once the list is announced.
Councillors warn that Taichung’s authorities must ensure national security and privacy for the city’s 2.8 million residents and not hide behind the legion of Hikvision cameras.
Hikvision’s parent company is the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corp, and its cameras and facial and gait recognition solutions have been helping censors and national security agents watch and track down dissidents, from numerous education and labor camps in the restive parts of Xinjiang to streets surrounding the Zhongnanhai and Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
However, it is feared that local governments throughout Taiwan may have to identify gear and products from the blacklisted companies and their subsequent replacement.
It is also not clear who will foot the whopping cost incurred. One of the underlying reasons cash-strapped cities opted for China-made gear and equipment in the first place, was to save on budgets.
Chinese companies operating in Taiwan usually offer deep discounts to government customers either to grab market share or follow mandates by Beijing to infiltrate the self-ruled island.