LONDON—China’s Huawei poses such a grave security risk to the United Kingdom that the government must not allow it to have even a limited role in building 5G networks, a former head of Britain’s foreign spy service said on May 16.
The Trump administration, which hit Huawei with sanctions on Wednesday, has told allies not to use its technology because of fears it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying.
But British ministers have discussed allowing Huawei a restricted role in building parts of its 5G network. The final decision has not yet been published.
“I very much hope there is time for the UK government, and the probability as I write of a new prime minister, to reconsider the Huawei decision,” said Richard Dearlove, who was chief of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1996 to 2004.
“The ability to control communications and the data that flows through its channels will be the route to exercise power over societies and other nations,” Dearlove wrote in the foreword to a report on Huawei by the Henry Jackson Society.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Britain on a visit this month that it needed to change its attitude toward China and Huawei, casting the world’s second largest economy as a threat to the West similar to that once posed by the Soviet Union.
Asked whether the government would reconsider its stance on Huawei, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said: “As you know, in relation to Huawei, we are reviewing the right policy approach for 5G and when an announcement is ready the culture secretary will update parliament.”
Dearlove, who spent 38 years in British intelligence, said it was deeply worrying that the British government “appears to have decided to place the development of some its most sensitive critical infrastructure” in the hands of a Chinese company.
“No part of the Communist Chinese state is ultimately able to operate free of the control exercised by its Communist Party leadership,” said Dearlove.
“We should also not be influenced by the threat of the economic cost of either delaying 5G or having to settle for a less capable and more expensive provider,” he said.
Huawei was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer in China’s People’s Liberation Army.
In January, U.S. prosecutors charged two Huawei units in Washington state saying they conspired to steal T-Mobile trade secrets, and also charged Huawei and its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou with bank and wire fraud on allegations that the company violated sanctions against Iran.
By Guy Faulconbridge