Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on January 28 that he would allow Chinese communications giant Huawei to help build the country’s next generation 5G telecommunications infrastructure despite US warnings that such a move could expose the UK data to the Chinese government is hampering London’s ability to securely share information with Washington.
There are indeed good reasons to believe that Huawei’s involvement in the construction of its new telecommunications networks would pose a threat to the security of Great Britain and its allies.
Huawei says it is a private company that does not belong to the Chinese state and therefore poses no risk to the security of a nation. However, China’s 2017 national intelligence law requires all Chinese organizations and citizens to “support, assist and cooperate with state intelligence work”. This means Huawei would have no choice but to hand over network data to the Chinese government if Beijing requests it.
The UK government has attempted to allay these concerns by saying that Huawei would only be allowed to enter “non-sensitive” parts of 5G networks and that its participation would not hamper the UK’s ability to share classified data.
Only time will tell if this is an accurate assessment, but there are other, more pressing issues that make the UK’s partnership with Huawei alarming.
According to research by Australian Institute for Strategic Policy (ASPI), Huawei has played an active role in the Chinese government’s efforts to create the perfect police state in Xinjiang – an autonomous region in the far northeast of the country, home to around 10 million Uighur Muslims.
In August 2018, a The United Nations a group of experts said they had received credible reports that more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities were detained in so-called “re-education camps” where they are forced to renounce Islam. While China claims that these camps are built to “de-radicalize” those suspected of participating in political violence, Uighurs say they are detained in despicable conditions for harmless daily activities such as prayer, dating of a mosque or even a long beard.
Those who are not yet detained live under constant surveillance. In Xinjiang, there are cameras on each corner and checkpoints in each block. Mobile phones are monitored and any application, SMS or call that appearss suspicious results under immediate arrest.
In November 2019, The New York Times released more than 400 pages of leaked internal documents showing that the crackdown was planned at the highest levels of the ruling Communist Party in China. Entitled “no mercy”, the leaks reveal an intentional campaign of mass atrocities.
In addition, in a state press commentary quoted by the New York Times, it is clear that the purpose of this campaign is to “break their lineage, break their roots, break their ties and break their origins”. As the Washington Post said in a editorial“It is difficult to read this as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent.”
Huawei is an accomplice in these crimes. According to the ASPI report, he works directly with the Public Security Bureau of the Chinese government in Xinjiang to help silence, detain, harass and intimidate Uighur civilians. The same report shows that it not only provides public surveillance technology to the Xinjiang police, but also provides technical support on the ground. Already in 2014, says the report, Huawei participated in an anti-terrorism conference in Urumqi as an “important participant” in a programme called “Safe Xinjiang” – code for a police surveillance system.
In light of the overwhelming evidence documenting Huawei’s participation in the largest mass atrocity in the world today, it is difficult to excuse the British government’s eagerness to authorize Chinese society at help build its telecoms infrastructure.
China’s attack on human rights in general and religious freedoms in particular is not limited to the oppression of Uighurs.
In recent years, China has undertaken the worst repression of religion since the Cultural Revolution. Wang Yi, an early rain church pastor, who was recently sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly inciting “subvert state power,” said it amounted to “a war against the soul.” The American Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback says “the Chinese government is at war with faith”.
The Chinese Communist Party has never authorized full religious freedom and has always suppressed basic human rights. But between 1978 and 1992, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the country had made reforms that allowed certain communities to practice their faith with limited freedom. Under Xi Jinping, however, there is a renewed effort to control religious activity in China, and a new emphasis on the “sinization” of religion to make it “Chinese-oriented” and adaptable to “socialist society” .
Under Xi Jinping, the oppression of Buddhism in China for decadesFied. In 2016, authorities demolished hundreds of houses at the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in Sichuan Province, which is said to be one of the largest Buddhist education centers in the world. Persecution of Groups Labeled “xie jiao” – generally translated into heterodox teachings or evil cults – such as the Buddha school’s Falun Gong and the Church of the Almighty God – also continues.
Add to that the continued oppression of China’s freedoms in Hong Kong and Tibet as well as its persecution of dissenting voices in China. Chinese dissidents are still imprisoned across the country, the Chinese people still have limited internet access, and the country’s media are heavily controlled by the Communist Party.
Huawei, despite its claims to be an independent private company, is a fundamental part of a state apparatus that works tirelessly to suppress the most basic human rights and silence opposing voices in China and beyond.
The UK should urgently rethink its decision to let such a company participate in the construction of its crucial communications infrastructure.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.