US warns telcos over Huawei amid visa sanctions

White House
(Image credit: David Everett Strickler / Unsplash)

The US State Department has imposed fresh visa restrictions on some Huawei employees and warned telcos that work with the company that they are facilitating alleged human rights abuses.

Huawei has long been frozen out of the US market on national security grounds, with Washington believing the firm has links to the Chinese government.

The firm denies any allegations of wrongdoing while the US has yet to provide evidence to support its claims.

Huawei US visa

Nonetheless, Washington has intensified its long-running campaign against Huawei in recent months. New sanctions have severely impacted the firm’s ability to source components for its networking equipment, while diplomatic pressure has resulted in Britain banning operators from using Huawei kit in their 5G rollouts.

Both developments are major blows to the future of Huawei’s business and now the US is tightening the screw.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the visa restrictions affect “certain” employees of technology companies that provide “material” support to regimes engaging in human rights abuses around the world.

In a strongly-worded statement, Mike Pompeo once again reiterated Washington’s belief that Huawei has links with the Chinese government and of alleged human rights abuses.

“Companies impacted by today’s action include Huawei, an arm of the [Chinese government’s] surveillance state that censors political dissidents and enables mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the indentured servitude of its population shipped all over China. Certain Huawei employees provide material support to the CCP regime that commits human rights abuses.

“Telecommunications companies around the world should consider themselves on notice: If they are doing business with Huawei, they are doing business with human rights abusers.”

Meanwhile, Huawei once again denied suggestions it had links with Beijing.

“Huawei operates independent of the Chinese government,” a company spokesperson told TechRadar Pro. “We are a private, employee-owned firm. We are disappointed by this unfair and arbitrary action to restrict visas of our employees who work tirelessly to contribute to technological innovation in the U.S. and around the world.”

Pompeo also expressed his delight at the UK’s recent U-turn for which US President Donald Trump has claimed credit for.

“Not just the UK, but 190 countries – we want every one of them to make sure that their citizens’ data isn’t in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” he said in an interview transcript posted by the  US State Department.

“We are pleased with the UK’s decision.  We think they came to it after having reviewed the same data that we have seen about the risk of privacy of the facial recognition, data sets, all of that that transits across Huawei’s systems, inevitably being made available to the CCP. 

“[The UK] concluded that wasn’t in their nation’s best interest and made the decision you saw this week.  We were happy about that outcome because we think it helps the United States as well, because you have Americans that have their information transiting across those systems when they travel to the United Kingdom as well.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.