Huawei files suit against U.S. as dispute around equipment intensifies

Huawei, the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker, has filed suit against the U.S. government challenging a recently passed law that bans federal agencies from buying Huawei products. The lawsuit was filed in Texas, where the company's U.S. headquarters are located.

“This ban not only is unlawful, but also restricts Huawei from engaging in fair competition, ultimately harming U.S. consumers,” Huawei Deputy Chairman Guo Ping said at a news conference in China. Huawei’s lawsuit argues that the ban is unconstitutional because it singles out a specific group for punishment without a trial. Huawei is asking for a declaratory judgment that the restrictions targeting Huawei are unconstitutional, and a permanent injunction against these restrictions.  

(As Digital Trends points out, it appears that Guo and other Huawei executives read their statements about the lawsuit off foldable Mate X phones.) 

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President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (PDF) into law in August 2018 amid fears that Chinese equipment makers were surreptitiously spying on Americans. The law singles out two Chinese telecom manufacturers, Huawei and ZTE, and bars federal agencies from using their products. The U.S. government also urged AT&T to end its negotiations with Huawei in 2018 when the carrier planned to offer Huawei handsets to customers, according to a report from Reuters. 

The Trump administration has been lobbying allies to take the same action against Huawei. Australia is banning wireless carriers from using Huawei products on their 5G networks; Japan has banned its federal agencies from using equipment from either Huawei or ZTE. The U.K. and Germany are reportedly considering similar bans, though a news report from Forbes suggests the U.S. lobbying efforts haven’t convinced some allies to join the ban. 

Huawei’s Guo claimed neither members of Congress nor the White House has been able to produce evidence proving that Huawei and ZTE are, in fact, spying on consumers. “We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort,” Guo said.

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Huawei’s troubles began in 2012, under the Obama administration, when a Congressional report (PDF) raised security concerns about the company’s networking equipment. The report details that Huawei and ZTE both failed to cooperate with investigators compiling the report, concluding that “Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.” 

U.S. officials have argued that if the Chinese government ever requested backdoor access to telecom equipment, Huawei would have to comply. Vice President Mike Pence reiterated this argument as recently as last month. “Chinese law requires them to provide Beijing's vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their networks or equipment,” he said, speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany. 

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Guo denied the company has ever complied with such a request. “We will never allow others to install any in our equipment.” 

Huawei is currently facing unrelated charges filed by U.S. prosecutors in New York and Washington state. Prosecutors have argued that the company tried to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile, and that it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada in December 2018 and is facing extradition to the U.S.