The United States has been leading a campaign to pressure other governments and companies that partnering with telecommunications giant Huawei poses national security risks. Poland's arrest of a Huawei employee and a former Polish security agent on espionage charges could boost those concerns.
Poland's Internal Security Service has arrested a Chinese executive of telecom giant Huawei and a former Polish security official on spying allegations. The arrests, reported Jan. 11, took place on Jan. 8. Polish security agents also collected documents and electronic data from the Warsaw homes and offices of the two suspects.
The Huawei executive, identified in media reports as Wang Weijing, previously worked in the Chinese consulate in Gdansk. He has worked in Poland for Huawei since 2011, first as a director of public affairs, then as a sales director. The Polish suspect, identified by Polish state TV only as Piotr D., previously was deputy director of information security for the same Polish counterintelligence agency that arrested him. At the time of his arrest, he was working for Orange Polska, a subsidiary of the French telecommunications company, Orange.
Why It Matters
The arrests could reinforce U.S. efforts to persuade its allies to restrict or block Huawei's access to their markets. The United States is concerned that the Chinese government can work with Huawei to use the company's equipment to create listening posts and "backdoors" that allow it to spy on Western communications and data networks or even sabotage them.
Polish authorities have not linked the espionage allegations directly to Huawei. Indeed, as more details emerge, it may turn out that the Chinese suspect only leveraged his position with the company to obtain classified information with the help of the Polish suspect. Wang's previous role at the Chinese consulate and the Polish suspect's security service experience suggest this possibility, as well as a possible long-standing relationship between the two men. But even if information comes to light that absolves the company, Huawei would still face accusations that it might have a widespread problem with Chinese intelligence officials embedding themselves in the company as Huawei workers.
Poland began rolling out a nationwide 5G telecommunications project with Huawei last year. This week's arrests could call that relationship into question and will be used by the United States to support its argument that Huawei poses a national security risk to any country that does business with it. The Polish case could also prompt a review of business relationships with Orange, though there is no indication so far that the alleged spying activity by the former Polish security agent extended beyond him.
The United States has been working with its allies to undermine Huawei's international business efforts. Several U.S. allies, including Australia, New Zealand and Japan, have joined Washington in treating Huawei, a key developer and manufacturer of 5G network equipment, as a national security risk.
The arrests in Poland come about six weeks after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer and the daughter of the company's founder, Ren Zhengfei, in Vancouver on allegations the company violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. Meng awaits extradition to the United States.