18 Feb Huawei accused of intimidation
A Liberal senator and Macquarie Telecom have hit back at Huawei, accusing it of trying to “intimidate” companies like Telstra and Google from supporting a think-tank critical of the Chinese telco equipment provider.
Huawei Technologies Australia director of corporate and public affairs Jeremy Mitchell emailed a letter to local representatives at Google, Telstra and defence contractor Thales on Wednesday as reported by this masthead. The three businesses have commercial relationships with the Chinese equipment provider and are sponsors of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
ASPI had published reports and articles regarding trust and security in Australia when using China-based businesses. Huawei was banned from participating in Australia’s high-speed mobile network build 5G last year by the government.
Mr Mitchell criticised “negative comments about Huawei from an ASPI spokesperson” and said the company was “extremely disappointed in the way ASPI has conducted itself”.
He further accused ASPI of refusing to engage with Huawei and said the think-tank “has let both our companies down by their fixation on painting Huawei as the enemy without any evidence to back it up” and described the approach as “anti-China”.
Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson said in a statement that think tanks should be free to discuss and debate policy issues without fear its supporters would be targeted for retribution due to the outcome of their research.
“I am gravely concerned by this ham-fisted attempt to intimidate the supporters of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute,” he said.
“Companies who operate in Australia must accept that we are a country which cherishes the right to free speech, and views dimly any attempt to stifle it.”
Macquarie Telecom managing director Aidan Tudehope said he had “no issue with different companies having different views” but said the letter seemed to “undermine open debate”.
Macquarie Telecom has been a sponsor of ASPI for several years, he said, and considered the research from the institute to be fact-based and well-researched.
Macquarie has occasionally paid for the air fares and expenses for “thought leaders” to come to Australia to participate in ASPI events, he said.
He had not received a letter from Huawei about ASPI as the organisation did not have a relationship with the Chinese provider and said in an earlier statement that this made him suspicious “Huawei wrote to organisations with which it felt it had some commercial leverage”.
“Huawei has every right to disagree with ASPI’s views, but it should play ball and take the debate up in public and directly with ASPI,” he said.
A Huawei spokesman said the letter called “for an open, balanced, fact-based discussion on the important matter of cyber security”.
“Huawei serves over half the Australian population with their daily communications needs and has done so safely and securely for 15 years. We are happy to stand by our record in this area,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The Age.