Prague, Czech Republic – A report by Radiožurnál, a flagship station of Czech Public Radio, has allegedly found evidence that local employees of the Czech branch of telecoms giant Huawei routinely share sensitive information with Chinese embassy officials.
According to their report (in Czech), local employees of Huawei regularly collect information, including of a private and financial nature, about top officials and businessmen in order to share them with officials from the Chinese embassy, or log them into the internal network, remotely managed from the company’s headquarters in China.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, two former country managers said that Huawei employees were closely cooperating with Chinese intelligence officers. In its report, Radiožurnál also claims to back its findings on information from the Czech intelligence services.
Contacted by Radiožurnál, Huawei denied the allegations and said the company was in full compliance with Czech and EU privacy rules.
For months, Huawei has been at the forefront of a major worldwide controversy, being accused by the U.S. and many EU states of posing a fundamental threat to national security due to its ties to China’s intelligence apparatus.
Huawei critics claim that letting the Chinese conglomerate take part to a country’s critical telecoms infrastructure, including the roll-out of the 5G network, would significantly increase Beijing’s spying capabilities all across the West.
Other analysts however argue that Trump is mainly using Huawei as leverage in its bitter trade war with China, and that the U.S. attacks against Huawei are mostly motivated by Washington’s desire to cripple China and catch up with its competitor in terms of 5G technology.
European countries have found themselves in the middle of this war. In Poland, a Huawei employee was arrested on suspicion of espionage.
In December last year, the Czech intelligence agency (BIS) had already warned of the rise of Chinese espionage in the country. A few weeks later, the national cybersecurity agency doubled down and specifically targeted Huawei, saying the Chinese telecoms giant posed a clear security threat to the Czech Republic.
The reports drew the ire of President Milos Zeman, a vocal pro-Chinese advocate, who argued that Huawei was being slandered without any proof.
The Czech government, meanwhile, has been taking preliminary steps to face the potential threat posed by Huawei. A cyber-security audit has been commissioned, while several government institutions and ministries have barred Huawei from taking part in public tenders on strategic communications infrastructure.