visegrad countries

Hungary remains a safe haven for Chinese mobile giant Huawei in the European Union

Earlier this year, a director of Huawei, the Chinese mobile technology giant – considered by many US and EU experts as a cyber security risk and an outstretched arm of the Communist Chinese state – was arrested in Poland on suspicion of spying.  After the unprecedented move Poland considered to ban Huawei’s devices from the Polish public sector telecommunications infrastructure. However, the Hungarian government maintains a good relationship with Huawei, and has not expressed any reservations about the Chinese company after the scandal. Vsquare reporters explored the attitudes towards Huawei in the Visegrad countries.

Vulnerabilities of a Chinese tech giant

Huawei is at the center of heated political debate around the world. There is a general assumption among experts on China, ICT (Information and Communications Technology) experts and politicians that the company uses its ICT devices to spy on its users and provide this data to Chinese government. Though there have been separate cases of Huawei breaches of consumer trust, however, no one has ever came up with bullet proof evidence of systematic abuse of Huawei devices.

Huawei highlights that unlike in the case of the USA and its NSA scandal, no surveillance and listening to European politicians has ever been proven. The company is also in the middle of trade war between the USA and China, and has alleged that claims about its security flaws are just a way to slow down technological development of Huawei devices, which are considered by many to be far ahead of the rest of the world. As always, the truth is much more complex and interesting, showing possible strategic thinking on the part of China for times of peace and times of war.

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Exit the Dragon

Early in the morning on January 8th, agents of the Polish Internal Security Agency entered the homes of Piotr D. and Wejing W. The former, who used to work in special services, was a manager at Orange, a telecommunications company. The latter was the head of sales at Poland’s Huawei’s office. They were charged with acts of espionage for China and jailed for three months. They are currently facing ten years in prison.

The decision to detain them was unprecedented. Never before had a Chinese citizen been detained in Poland on espionage charges. The services had paid little attention to the activities of Chinese operatives in Poland. The only high-profile case involved Mateusz Piskorski, a former politician accused of spying for Russia and China in 2016. According to our sources, it was US secret services that sounded the alarm about the activities of Piotr D. and Weijing W.

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This investigative project was financially supported by the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium aimed at the Visegrad countries. Member centers Direkt36 and Átlátszó from Hungary, Ján Kuciak Investigative Center from Slovakia, Fundacja Reporterów from Poland and from the Czech Republic are working on the project.