Security concerns over Huawei flagged years before NZ embraced them

Huawei boss & former People's Liberation Army military technologist Ren Zhengfei

Information released by WikiLeaks has revealed Australia and America had security concerns about  Huawei two years before New Zealand deepened its relationship with the Chinese telecommunications giant.

The disclosures are contained in US embassy cables in 2008 outlining an investigation that was being conducted into Huawei by the Australian Attorney-General’s Department.

The investigation was part of a national security review of bidders for the Australian national broadband network.

It involved consultations with a raft of government agencies including the Defence Signals Directorate and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

The department told the US embassy that it was “well aware of issues related to Huawei” and indicated it would contact the US government for more information.

Since then ASIO has advised the department that Huawei’s involvement in the national broadband network could compromise national security because of concerns about cyber attacks originating in China.

As a result, the department blocked the government-owned company responsible for building the A$36 billion network from using equipment supplied by Huawei.

Huawei opened an office in New Zealand in 2005 and has since done extensive work here, including looking after Vodafone’s fixed-line network and building 2degrees mobile network.

However, their involvement in the government’s $1.35 billion Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) fibre network has raised serious concerns, given that Australia and the US have blocked them from becoming involved in similar undertakings.

Auckland-based defence analyst Paul Buchanan believes the company is almost certainly a front for Chinese intelligence and Prime Minister John Key now appears to be tempering his earlier enthusiasm for them.

In 2010, after  reportedly meeting Huawei executives at the Shanghai World Expo, he told TVNZ’s Q & A programme that the company should be a leading contender to supply equipment for the UFB network.

“At the end of the day, from New Zealand’s perspective, I mean we are looking for value for money,” he said.

“So let’s take ultrafast broadband. They’ve got a lot of expertise in that area, Huawei is a big player, they’re bigger round the world, they’ve got a huge partnership in the United Kingdom, for instance," he said.

And then last year he despatched Trade Minister Tim Groser, Communications Minister Steven Joyce and Finance Minister Bill English to China for discussions with the company.

Their visits were described as “invaluable” by former Victorian state premier John Brumby, who chairs Huawei’s Australian subsidiary.

“As a recently appointed director of Huawei Australia, I can tell you that the time these ministers spent with Huawei in China was very much appreciated,” he said.

But today, in the light of mounting concerns about Huawei, Mr Key seems to be soft-pedalling.

Through a spokeswoman he told NBR Online that he “did not actively encourage Huawei to supply Crown Fibre Holdings with equipment for UFB. He simply mentioned Huawei as an example of Chinese companies that had the expertise and was already partnering other countries”.

And he hedged on whether he had had any meetings with Huawei.

“The prime minister has not had any meetings with representatives of Huawei in New Zealand or overseas.

"However, Mr Key meets hundreds of people every week as he travels throughout New Zealand and overseas, and it is possible he has come across representatives of the company at some stage, but he has no recollection of this happening. “

Asked whether Mr Key could have met someone from the company when attending the Shanghai World Expo his spokeswoman said:

“The PM meets many people every day but we stand by our response that the PM has had no 'meeting' with representatives of Huawei.

"He may very well have been introduced to them at the Shanghai Expo, or they may have been at an event he attended, but he has no recollection of this.”

NBR Online also asked Mr Key whether he has sought or been in receipt of any advice from his security agencies about the advisability of doing business with Huawei and whether he intended to review New Zealand’s ongoing relationship with the company.

His spokeswoman said: “We do not discuss issues of security, but the prime minister has already said he is comfortable with the current arrangements.”

Huawei, meantime, maintains there are no security issues with the company and says the company's record "speaks for itself".

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13 Comments & Questions

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NZ has a "Chinese under the bed" problem,
not a Hauwei problem. Time to get a LIFE NZ.

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Wait, they handle Vodafone's landline only? That's already one line too many. I'll be reviewing my account options - pmo

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Rod Vaughan your article is so bad it's not even funny

The US embassy cables validate that Huawei is a risk - you have got to be joking.
As the USA is so scared of inevitably losing it's number one status in the global economy - which will happen in the enxt 5 to ten years - they are obviously doing everything they can to discredit China and its companies. There is no substance or credibility to the US embassies view - it is so biased it's ridiculous.

If the US is so fixated with destroying China it would do it via it's own successes - not pathetically bad mouthing another sovereign nation - the problem is that part from creating threats or wars the USA has not got much in it's legitimate arsenal..

Whilst the USA still controls it's own press and feeds constant BS to it's people, the rest of the western world has coem of age and no longer believes the nonsense that is generated by the once great power - the USA.

Rod Vaughan you and your newspaper seem to be fixated on Huawei - it would be more acceptable if you also ran articles on the atrocities and bad bs=usiness practice that eminates from the USA

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Well said Doc. I dont know why we are so scared of the chinese... they have never attacked anyone, yet our so called "ally" America is a raging war criminal these days, exempt from geneva conventions free to kidnapp and torture and we still listen to them? bring back Lange and tell USA to move along. If your concerned about Spying investigate what Endace Ltd does its spys on us and gets paid for it

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'Being scared" is not going to help either USA or Australia.
In fact all these cronies should accept China, or in this matter Huawei (perhap biting the bullet and losing some pride), learn and improve...not hiding away from the inevitable!

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From the Business Spectator .
Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb

"We must bear in mind that this is a company which is heavily involved in eight of nine NBN roll-outs around the world,"

Is this right?

If Eight out of Nine countries who are doing National Broadband networks are heavily involving Huawei then it sounds like New Zealand is in good company.

Rather than the New Zealand Government having to defend its decision it should be the Australian Government that should be defending itself.

Come on NBR, give the NZ Government a fair go.

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Well said Anon

This appears to be some witch hunt.

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Well done, NZ!

Two fingers to the US, the war monger and baby killer.

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Excellent analysis by Doctor Buchanan.

It's time for some geo-political realpolitik.

As Nathan Sharansky has described in ;
Defending Indentity : Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy .

" Multiculturalism has allowed the poltically radical to use those identities which they deem "progressive" and " anti-colonial " to destroy the majority culture which they view as " reactionary " and " colonial " .
To defend national values is taboo , if not regarded as outright " extremism " .

Some of the posters on this thread would happily see us compromised or worse.

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There are other countries that have refused Huawei over security concerns. India is one. I see that there are some very naive posters who imagine that Chinese interests are not interested in filtering and copying communications. Amd as to whether John Key says it's all ok; Isn't that the man who said in arecent Tv interview that more pokies at Skycity won't adversely impact problem gambling - and then furiously rubbed his nose!

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I don't see much mention of the fact that all US server traffic routes through hubs that siphon off a copy for the US intelligence services. Of everything - and most international internet traffic passes through the US, as you will see if you do a tracert.

How much of this information is used for commercial advantage for US companies is unknown and unknowable.

In my opinion, for best security NZ should employ a range of competing providers from different sources and encourage them all to keep a watchful eye on each other.

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China trying to politically infiltrate NZ and Australia. Huawei has already been given approval to take part in New Zealand’s broadband rollout.

The chairman of Huawei was formerly a senior official in the Chinese state intelligence agency, and its founder was formerly a solder in the People’s Liberation Army: http://www.investigatemagazine.co.nz/Investigate/?p=2655

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So is every other nation...get real and live on, or stay in your vault forever.

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