25 May Huawei freeze puts pressure on allies to lock out telco
Richard Ferguson and Rachel Baxendale – The Australian – Monday 25 May 2020
Britain has followed Australia and the US in moving to lock out Chinese telco Huawei from its 5G network as two top US foreign policy figures stood behind the Morrison government and accused China of trying to intimidate Australia.
The decision by Britain to freeze out Huawei within three years has bolstered calls by Australia and the US to ban Huawei from the networks of its Five Eyes security allies and shifts pressure on to Canada and New Zealand to block any involvement by the Chinese telecommunications giant in their 5G rollouts.
Australia, which banned Huawei from its local 5G network in August 2018, has led an international push with the US to block the company from rolling out critical telecom infrastructure on security grounds.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Republican senator Marco Rubio accused China of intimidating Australia and other nations to stop them from criticising the communist regime on Sunday.
The powerful US foreign policy figures called on Australia to hold the line in the face of trade threats and public attacks from China, sparked by Huawei freeze puts pressure on allies to block Beijing the Morrison government’s support for an independent review into COVID-19.
Scott Morrison on Sunday confirmed the government had directly raised concerns with Beijing last week over its attempts to tighten controls over Hong Kong.
Australia also joined the UK and Canada over the weekend to express concern over China’s plan to introduce national security legislation targeting the former British territory.
China’s foreign ministry defended its overhaul of Hong Kong’s security arrangements and accused Western nations of using “bandit logic” and denounced “certain countries” for making “irresponsible comments” about the legislation.
Mr Pompeo and Senator Rubio strongly backed the Morrison government’s position on the COVID-19 inquiry.
Mr Pompeo said China was blaming other nations, including Australia, for its own behaviour. “We need to know what happened. We certainly need to know about how the Chinese Communist Party behaved. But we also need to know much more about this virus,” Mr Pompeo told Sky News.
“I’m sure they’ve blamed Australia somewhere along the way . this virus originated in Wuhan.”
Senator Rubio, the acting chairman of the Senate intelligence committee and senior member of the Senate foreign relations committee, said Beijing’s targeting of Australia was “designed to frighten other countries from standing up to the Chinese Communist Party”.
“The CCP knows that if countries start to question its disinformation, then the image the party carefully cultivates will fall away,” Senator Rubio told The Australian.
The Florida senator said Beijing saw itself in a “systemic competition” with democracies, and he urged US allies to co-operate closely in diversifying supply chains in strategic areas.
“Too many commentators and policymakers see no other choice but to accept the CCP’s bullying,” he said. “That is a dangerous and unacceptable premise because it requires the free world to set aside our democratic values and our national interests.”
Liberal and Labor MPs – including former defence minister Kevin Andrews, and China critics James Paterson, Andrew Hastie and Kimberley Kitching – signed a global petition of 201 parliamentarians over the weekend calling on China to scrap the Hong Kong security changes.
Former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, leading the joint declaration, said there was “growing and widespread international outrage at the decision by the Chinese government to unilaterally impose national security legislation in Hong Kong”.
Without naming specific countries, China’s foreign ministry attacked politicians criticising its proposal, saying that “no matter how you lie and lie, you will not be able to change the mainstream public opinion of Hong Kong society that loves the country”.
“You have been deliberately thinking of using anti-China chaos in Hong Kong as a ‘pawn’ and Hong Kong as a ‘bridgehead’ to split, subvert, infiltrate, and destroy China, and conspiracies that violate China’s sovereignty and security will never succeed,” the spokesman said.
Mr Morrison said Australia had joined with others to express concerns with the “Chinese Communist Party government”.
“And that’s consistent with the position Australia has always held when it comes to the basic law and the proper position of one country and two systems, which we accept,” the Prime Minister said.
“And that statement is totally consistent with everything Australia has ever said about these issues. So I don’t find the statement remarkable. I see it as completely consistent with everything we have ever said about this issue, both privately and publicly.”
The Australian understands the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade protested to China’s embassy in Canberra against the Hong Kong move on Friday.
Australian embassy officials in Beijing also raised their concerns with the communist government directly on the same day.
The new security law would see China set up outposts for its national security apparatuses in Hong Kong – which currently has an independent police force and judiciary – and target sedition against the mainland.
Government sources said on Sunday that the government considered the law in complete contravention of the 1985 agreement between Britain and China that locked in human rights for Hong Kong citizens and paved the way for the handover in 1997.
In Britain, Tory backbenchers have been persistently pressuring the cabinet to reverse its earlier decision to allow Huawei as much as 35 per cent access to the 5G network; it is understood the US negotiations in the US-British free-trade deal were crucial in the fresh decision-making.
The US wants Britain to align itself with the US at the expense of trade relationships with China.
There has been concern across Europe that China has been exploiting the economic chaos wrought by the coronavirus for its own advantage amid suspicion about China’s trading ambitions on the continent as it buys key southern European ports.
In Germany, there are plans for new laws to stop the sale of critical infrastructure to China.