Don’t blame us if your data is “polluted”, says Huawei CEO

The founder of CEO of controversial Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei has dismissed security concerns about the company in his first ever press interview.

"Our business is just like building pipes," Ren Zhengfei told journalists in New Zealand, according to a report in the New Zealand Herald.

"Our pipe carries the data and information traffic. If the water running through the pipe is polluted, I think it is not the pipe that should be blamed."

Speaking specifically about the US, where Huawei is banned from certain government contracts on security grounds, Ren said: "If the United States continues to say 'we still have this security problem', that may prove in hindsight that the decision may not be very fact based."

Ren himself is the source of some of the security fears about Huawei. He used to be a military engineer for the People's Liberation Army, and critics have speculated that may still have connections to China's military, which, according to various sources, is actively engaged in electronic espionage against Western governments and businesses. 

Huawei has consistently denied all such accusations against it. 

In March, a law was passed in the US that requires space agency NASA and the Commerce and Justice departments to seek security clearance to use Chinese-made equipment in their technology products. 

"This abuse of so-called national security measures is unfair to Chinese enterprises, and extends the discriminatory practice of presumption of guilt," Chinese state media said in response. "This severely damages mutual trust between the US and China."

In October 2012, news agency Reuters reported that a US government investigation found no evidence that Huawei was involved in spying on its customers, but did warn that its products may be insecure. However, the White House denied the existence of any such investigation. 

Huawei is also banned from government contracts in Australia and India. 

The UK government evidently has no such security concerns. Last year, prime minister David Cameron welcomed a £1.3 billion investment strategy from the company in the UK, in which it promised to create around 700 new jobs. 

"The UK is one of the most important European markets in which Huawei has invested," Ren said at the time. "'The UK is a centre of innovation, has a highly skilled workforce, and is respected internationally for the quality of its legal and educational systems. It is for these reasons we have selected the UK as the location for a number of our centres of excellence." 

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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