Poland has arrested a director of the Chinese technology giant Huawei and one of its former cybersecurity experts and accused them of spying for the benefit of China, authorities said Friday.
The move comes as the United States is pressuring its allies to not use Huawei, the world's largest manufacturer of telecommunication network equipment, for data security reasons.
The two men – a Chinese citizen who was a former envoy to Poland before moving to a management position in Huawei and another one a Pole who held several cybersecurity positions in the government – were arrested on Tuesday, said the Polish Internal Security Agency.
Polish security agents raided the offices of Huawei and Orange, Poland's largest communications provider, in Warsaw, where the former Polish security expert recently worked, seizing documents and electronic data. The houses of the two men, also in Warsaw, were also raided, according to the spokesman of the agency, Stanislaw Zaryn.
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This is the latest failure for Huawei in Europe, where the company has ambitious plans to roll out next-generation "5G" mobile networks, which is one of the leaders in development. The arrest is a new sign that an American conflict with China over its ban on exploiting the company has repercussions on Europe, Huawei's largest foreign market.
Some European governments and telecom companies are following the American example by questioning the fact that Huawei's use of vital infrastructure for mobile networks could expose them to government spying. Chinese.
Maciej Wasik, Deputy Chief of Polish Special Services, said that the operation that led to the arrest of the two suspects had been under way for a long time. He stated that "both had carried out espionage activities against Poland".
Zaryn told The Associated Press that prosecutors had been accused of spying by prosecutors, but that agents were still gathering evidence and questioning witnesses. Other charges are expected, he said.
He added that no further details would be published on the case because the case is classified and the investigation is ongoing.
Polish state television TVP reported that the men had proclaimed their innocence, but Zaryn said he could not confirm it. If they are found guilty, they risk each up to 10 years in prison.
TVP identified the arrested Chinese man as Weijing W., claiming that he was a director in Poland at Huawei. He also said that he also called Stanislaw, his Polish first name, and had previously worked at the Chinese Consulate in Gdansk.
A LinkedIn profile for a man named Stanislaw Wang seems to match the details of the man described by Polish television.
In his resume, Wang said that he worked at the Chinese Consulate General in Gdansk from 2006 to 2011 and at Huawei Enterprise Poland since 2011, where he was the first director of public affairs and, since 2017, "sales director of the public sector ". The resume states that he graduated in 2004 from the Beijing University of Foreign Studies.
State television has identified the Polish Pyotr D. as a senior official at the Homeland Security Agency, where he held the post of Deputy Director at the Department of Information Security until 2011.
The Polish state-run news agency PAP said the man also held high-level positions in the cyber security sector at the Ministry of the Interior and the Office of Electronic Communications, a regulator relating to cybercrime and telecommunications.
While he was working at the Homeland Security Agency, he was involved in building a mobile communication system for the highest Polish officials. He was fired in 2011 as part of a major corruption scandal.
Geopolitical tensions over Huawei have intensified since Canada arrested a senior official last month at the request of the US authorities. The company has been stuck in the United States since 2012, fearing that its equipment poses a security risk. Last year, Australia, New Zealand and Japan introduced their own ban on using Huawei.
US officials have recently invaded Europe to convince Huawei's governments and suppliers to block the company.
The company and analysts have long argued that it has never been found guilty of violating cybersecurity, but the latest charge, if confirmed, will be a blow to this defense.
"One thing is clear: it is an added highlight in Huawei's European ambitions," said Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute, a think tank.
The arrest may not have a significant impact on the broader trade tensions between China and the United States, but it shows that there will always be "competition and acrimony in Chinese technology companies, "said Benner.
Huawei, which also manufactures smartphones and other consumer devices, issued a statement from its Chinese headquarters stating that it was aware of the situation in Poland and that it was investigating it. .
"We have no comment at this time.Huawei complies with all laws and regulations in force in the countries where it operates and requires that every employee abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where it is based", the statement said.
Poland is the headquarters of Huawei in Central and Eastern Europe and the Nordic region.
An official at the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw said that China attached "great importance to the detention" of a Chinese citizen in Poland and that his emissaries had met with officials of the Polish Foreign Ministry for Urge them to organize a consular visit "as soon as possible".
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Friday night that he "was closely following the detention of Wang Weijing, Huawei employee," and had asked Poland to "handle the case lawfully, equitably and adequately, and to effectively guarantee the legitimate rights of the person, his security and his humanitarian aid "treatment," according to the state broadcaster CCTV.
Orange Poland told AP on Friday that it was cooperating with Polish security services in this case and had "handed over the belongings of one of our employees" during the search of its offices on Tuesday. Orange told AP that she did not know if the suspicions weighing on her employee were related to her work at Orange or elsewhere.
Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested on December 1 in Canada in connection with US accusations that the company has violated restrictions on the sale of US technology to Iran.
The United States wants Meng to be extradited to face charges that it misled the banks about the company's business relations in Iran. In Canada, she is on bail while awaiting an extradition proceeding.
On December 10, China arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor for vague allegations of national security in retaliation against Meng's arrest.
The Chinese ambassador to Canada accused the country this week of "white supremacy" by calling for the release of the two Canadians, while describing the detentions as an "act of self-defense".