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Authoritarian Tech

Huawei exec defends company to UK parliament

With the British Tory party facing a tumultuous leadership battle that won’t reach a conclusion until July 22, readers could be mistaken for thinking a range of pressing issues might be on pause. Yet earlier this week, the House of Commons heard from Huawei’s global cybersecurity and privacy officer, who defended the firm’s record on security in an attempt to counter a U.S.-led move to ban Huawei around the world.

John Suffolk answered questions from MPs on the Technology and Science Select Committee about the safety of the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure. The British government faces increasing pressure from the Trump administration to follow the U.S. in banning Huawei from projects like new 5G networks.

Suffolk told MPs that Huawei had never been asked by China or any other government to “do anything untoward”. He also said the company would welcome external scrutiny of its products to detect any engineering or coding flaws. “We stand naked in front of the world, but we would prefer to do that, because it enables us to improve our products,” he said.

He later added: “We want people to find things, whether they find one or one thousand, we don’t care. We are not embarrassed by what people find.”

“We’ve never had a request from the Chinese government to do anything untoward at all,” he said. “We have never been asked by the Chinese government or any other government, I might add, to do anything that would weaken the security of a product.”

Suffolk was also questioned about the use of Huawei technology in Chinese detention centers where up to two million Uyghurs may be held. He answered by saying the company condemned human rights abuses “in any country in which it occurs” and that it was up to governments to set laws in those countries where Huawei operated.

His comments were described as “extraordinary” by committee members — Conservative MP Julian Lewis labeled the Huawei executive a “moral vacuum.”

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