Huawei ban a ‘thorny issue’ hurting China-Australia relations, says China’s ambassador Cheng Jingye


Hitting out at the “smear campaign” against Huawei and pressure on US allies, Mr Cheng praised Britain’s approach.

“Despite external pressure, I think the UK has come up with a decision which will not exclude Huawei from participating at least in some parts of the 5G technology development, which I think is a sensible decision,” he said.

In August 2018, the Australian government became the first country to bar the Chinese telecommunications giant from providing 5G technology. The prohibition on equipment vendors “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government” preceded a similar move by the US.

A former intelligence official recently went public to describe how electronic intelligence agency the Australian Signals Directorate had tried to develop safeguards that would allow Huawei to be involved in 5G but found the risk to be too high.

The question of how to handle those risks has also triggered a row between close allies after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to authorise Huawei to have a limited role in his country’s rollout.

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Earlier this month, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed Labor MP Anthony Byrne, deputy chair of the Australian Parliament’s intelligence and security committee, rebuked British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over the issue in a private meeting in Canberra.

“How would you feel if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks? That’s how we feel about Huawei,” Mr Byrne told Mr Raab, according to sources in the room. Mr Byrne said British intelligence agencies were “flat-out wrong” to say Huawei could supply 5G equipment and not pose a threat to national security.

The ABC subsequently revealed Britain’s high commissioner to Australia, Vicki Treadall, wrote to two parliamentary committee chairs to demand an explanation over the leak about the meeting. A planned trip to Britain by the intelligence and security committee has been cancelled.