Huawei Ireland chief executive criticized ‘bogus attacks’ by academic who raised security concerns over telecommunications company’s access to Irish 5G network, in letter to Defense Minister Simon Coveney .
In an article published in Defense Forces Review last December, University College Dublin professor of politics, Dr Richard Maher, wrote that Huawei had “obscure ties” to the Chinese government. He argued, therefore, that giving the Chinese company access to the Irish 5G mobile network posed “serious and arguably unmanageable security risks.”
In a December 17 letter, Tony Yangxu, director of Huawei Ireland, said the academic paper was an “extraordinary and completely false attack” on the company.
Mr. Yangxu said Huawei was “a strong supporter of the principles of academic freedom and free speech”, but it was “a two-way street”.
The letter, published to the Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, was sent to Mr. Coveney, Secretary General of the Department of Defense Jacqui McCrum and Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, Chief of defense forces staff.
Mr. Yangxu called for their “full support to mitigate the damage that has been done” so that it does not “contaminate” the collective future of Ireland and Huawei.
The company had had “no opportunity to counterbalance the false allegations” before they were published in the military newspaper.
In the newspaper, Dr Maher said the company’s suspected strong ties to the Chinese government left it vulnerable to pressure.
Huawei critics have argued that these links “could allow the Chinese government to infiltrate these networks, leaving countries vulnerable to intelligence gathering, data theft or sabotage,” he wrote.
The ownership structure and operations of the company have also remained “opaque and secret,” he said.
With 5G likely to play a key role in the country’s critical infrastructure in the future, the damage from data security risks “could be potentially untold,” he wrote.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Dr Maher said the Chinese Communist Party “wields tremendous influence over private companies” in the country.
“Sometimes that influence is in the background; other times it is in the foreground. But all private companies in China are generally expected to advance the goals and interests of the Chinese government, ”he said.
Responding to the claim that Huawei should have been allowed to comment on his article before it was published, he said that was “not how academic research and publishing work.”
In a statement, David James Kenny, public affairs manager for Huawei Ireland, said the company has been a “committed partner” of Ireland for 16 years.
He was “extremely disappointed to see a one-sided article, based on opinion rather than fact, in what is positioned as an advisory publication for the state,” he said.
On December 23, Ms. McCrum met with Mr. Yangxu to discuss the matter, and she said the document was the author’s “analysis and interpretation”.
The newspaper published a disclaimer stating that the articles had been “subject to academic peer review, and do not indicate official endorsement by the Defense Forces, or the Ministry of Defense,” report Of the reunion.
Vice-Admiral Mellett has since ordered a review of the military newspaper’s oversight, following a dispute between the Defense Force and the department, over a separate article criticizing the number of officials overseeing the military.
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