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WSJ: China’s Huawei helped African governments spy on political challengers

Huawei Canada. (Raysonho/Wikimedia Commons)
August 14, 2019

Chinese telecom giant Huawei has embedded its surveillance technology in Africa where it helped government officials spy on their opponents, a new report revealed on Wednesday.

Huawei’s technicians personally helped governments in Uganda and Zambia in spying on political opponents, an operation that included “intercepting their encrypted communications and social media, and using cell data to track their whereabouts,” security officials told The Wall Street Journal in an exclusive investigation.

When pop star Bobi Wine rose in popularity in Uganda and threatened to disrupt Yoweri Museveni’s 33-year presidency, intelligence officials attempted to intercept Wine’s encrypted communications. When the effort failed after days of attempts, they turned to Huawei staffers for help.

“The Huawei technicians worked for two days and helped us puncture through,” a senior intelligence official told WSJ.

While the investigation did not reveal spying directed by the Chinese government or indications that the Chinese government knew about the surveillance activities, it did show evidence that Huawei staff aided the government in political spying.

Huawei is highly regarded in China. It is the second leading smartphone company in the world, and is the largest producer of cellular and internet networking equipment.

The report of funding is not far removed from numerous reports over several years that Huawei has conducted surveillance activities.

The U.S. has criticized Huawei’s activities and accused it of being used as a tool of the Chinese government due to numerous incidents involving espionage with Chinese government agents over the years, instances which Huawei denies.

As a result, the U.S. has banned Huawei from participating in the development of 5G networks in the U.S.

President Trump also banned Huawei from doing business in the U.S., a move made via executive order in May.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reportedly showed evidence to British officials that Huawei received funds from the China’s People’s Liberation Army, China’s National Security Commission and a Chinese intelligence agency, according to a report by The Times in April.