Huawei is extremely irritated on Tuesday.
In a statement responding to a Wall Street Journal article published late last month, the company accused the US government of engaging in a nefarious campaign to bully its employees and disrupt its networks with malicious cyberattacks, among other things.
“US prosecutors are looking into additional instances of alleged technology theft by Huawei, potentially expanding beyond existing criminal cases against the Chinese telecommunications giant”, the Journal wrote on August 29, citing people familiar with the situation who said the US is examining “episodes in which Huawei was accused of stealing intellectual property from multiple people and companies over several years, as well as how the company went about recruiting employees from competitors”.
The paper said the probe “overlaps with findings from a Wall Street Journal investigation”.
The company on Tuesday walks through a timeline regarding alleged theft of smartphone-camera patents, and then moves to level sweeping accusations against the US government.
“For the past several months, the US government has been leveraging its political and diplomatic influence to lobby other governments to ban Huawei equipment”, the company says. That’s not news. But Huawei goes further, accusing the US of “using every tool at its disposal – including both judicial and administrative powers, as well as a host of other unscrupulous means – to disrupt the normal business operations of Huawei and its partners”.
Here, according to Huawei, is what the Trump administration has been up to:
- Instructing law enforcement to threaten, menace, coerce, entice, and incite both current and former Huawei employees to turn against the company and work for them
- Unlawfully searching, detaining, and even arresting Huawei employees and Huawei partners
- Attempting entrapment, or pretending to be Huawei employees to establish legal pretense for unfounded accusations against the company
- Launching cyber attacks to infiltrate Huawei’s intranet and internal information systems
- Sending FBI agents to the homes of Huawei employees and pressuring them to collect information on the company
- Mobilizing and conspiring with companies that work with Huawei, or have a business conflict with Huawei, to bring unsubstantiated accusations against the company
- Launching investigations based on false media reports that target the company
- Digging up old civil cases that have already been settled, and selectively launching criminal investigations or filing criminal charges against Huawei based on claims of technology theft
- Obstructing normal business activities and technical communications through intimidation, denying visas, detaining shipment, etc.
Those are some serious allegations, although it’s not at all clear what recourse the company has considering the antagonist is the US government.
Last month, Wilbur Ross’s Commerce department extended Huawei’s “temporary general license” for 90 days after it was set to expire. The reprieve was originally put in place in May, days after the US blacklisted the company as part of the Trump administration’s maximum economic pressure campaign on Beijing, which, for a time, leaned heavily on the excuse that “national security” is at stake. Following the truce in Osaka in late June, Trump raised eyebrows by striking an overtly conciliatory tone towards Huawei. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle implored the White House not to back down on the blacklisting and even moved to enshrine the ban into law.
Despite the implicit promises Trump made to Xi at the G20, reports suggested the administration had decided to freeze license applications from US companies looking to resume sales to Huawei last month after Sino-US tensions flared anew.
In its Tuesday statement, Huawei went on to remind the world that “none of Huawei’s core technology has been the subject of any criminal case brought against the company, and none of the accusations levied by the US government have been supported with sufficient evidence”.
Ultimately, the company says it “strongly condemns” what it’s characterizing as a “malign, concerted effort by the US government to discredit Huawei and curb its leadership position in the industry”.
This is likely to inflame tensions between Huawei and Trump at a delicate juncture when the US and China are struggling to come to mutually agreeable terms for (as yet unscheduled) face-to-face, principal-level trade talks in Washington later this month.