Chinese electronics vendor Huawei sued the United States government this week, stating it has been unfairly and incorrectly banned as a security threat, reports The New York Times and multiple news outlets.
Huawei’s lawsuit will force the U.S. government to make its case against the company more public, however, it could expose the company to more scrutiny regarding its business practices and relationship with the Chinese government.
The U.S.’s agreement has been Huawei poses a risk because Chinese authorities could use its equipment to spy on communications and disrupt telecommunications networks, according to The New York Times. This argument has led major U.S. wireless carriers to avoid using Huawei’s equipment. Huawei, however, denies such allegations and said the lawsuit is meant to prove it does not engage in these practices.
“The U.S. Congress has repeatedly failed to produce any evidence to support its restrictions on Huawei products,” Guo Ping, Huawei’s rotating chairman, said in a statement. “We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort.”
In part, Huawei’s lawsuit argued a portion of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act is unconstitutional because it singles out Huawei. The act forbids agencies from contracting from Huawei, as well as any companies that use its equipment.
U.S authorities have been pressuring Huawei for months, and Huawei had decided it’s time to push back. Its suit against the U.S. government is part of both a legal and public relations offensive the company has put together to combat spying allegations, The New York Times reports.
“The U.S. government has long branded Huawei as a threat, it has hacked our service and stolen our emails and source code,” Guo Ping said during news briefing broadcast, referring to National Security Agency documents provided by the former contractor Edward Snowden that showed the agency had pried its way into Huawei’s systems. “Still, the U.S. government is sparing no effort to smear the company and mislead the public about Huawei.”
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei chief financial officer and founder Ren Zhengfei’s daughter, was detained in Canada in December at the United States’ request, as the U.S. is looking to extradite her. Zhengfei has rejected the claims against his daughter and stated he’d wait to see if President Trump would intervene. Meng was in court this week in Vancouver, British Columbia part of an extradition hearing, according to The New York Times.
The U.S. Justice Department filed criminal charges against Huawei in January, but those cases looked at Huawei’s involvement in evading American sanctions on Iran and its intellectual property theft. Neither issue is related to the main question governments face worldwide about whether using Huawei’s equipment in new 5G networks causes security concerns.
Huawei’s current lawsuit looks to answer that question, however. It will also push the U.S. government to make its case. Even if Huawei is unable to change American opposition to the company, it might hope to change government officials’ minds in other countries, including some in Europe who will be keeping an eye on the American lawsuit.
The debate over Huawei’s systems security comes at an important time as countries around the world are getting ready to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on expanding their cellular networks to 5G technology. While 5G networks will be faster, they’ll also use to connect a vast amount of new sensors and data collection systems alongside smartphones. The could make network vulnerabilities more serious than they’d’ been with cellular networks previously.
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, expressed support for Huawei’s legal action.
“We believe that it is perfectly justified and fully understandable for companies to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests through legal means,” he said.