Huawei leader calls out U.S. for privacy contradictions

BARCELONA, Spain—Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping defied expectations Tuesday, addressing head-on the widening controversies surrounding the Chinese vendor. While the U.S. government has repeatedly called into question the potential security risks posed by Huawei’s equipment, it has yet to provide evidence to back up its claims.

Guo was expected to stay away from the issue during the industry’s largest annual gathering here, but instead he confronted the implications and noted that the U.S. government has a shoddy track record with respect to protecting the privacy of its citizens. Using a clever rephrasing of Disney’s classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” Guo called out PRISM, the U.S. government’s surveillance system that former CIA officer and government contractor Edward Snowden leaked in 2013.

By effectively using the U.S. government’s practices to highlight a perceived lack of moral or ethical authority, Guo reclaimed ownership of the accusations being made and reiterated the company’s response in a more tactful and potentially equalizing manner.

Huawei has not and will never plant backdoors, and it will never allow partners or customers to do so with its equipment, he said. He called it a serious responsibility to comply with standards and took things further with a more recent example of perceived contradictions. “The irony is that the U.S. Cloud Act allows their entities to access data across border,” Guo said.

Much of his time on stage was dedicated to the technological achievements Huawei has made of late, but his comments on privacy and security were largely designed to switch the narrative surrounding the company. “What we’ve promised is that we don’t do anything bad. We don’t do bad things,” Guo said.

The infrastructure vendor and device maker announced at least seven new partnerships this week and continues to claim that its 5G technology is far ahead that of telecom stalwarts such as Nokia and Ericsson. Guo argued that while the company is already meeting security obligations on 4G, 5G will be even safer.

It’s unclear what, if anything, will change following Huawei’s latest attempts to overcome concerns related to its equipment and ties to the Chinese government. But Guo did not hesitate in making the most of his time under the spotlight at MWC and used a tactic that might catch the attention of President Donald Trump, who appears to have relented on plans to issue an executive order banning Huawei’s equipment from U.S. networks.