The UK will regret its decision to allow Chinese tech firm Huawei to build parts of the country’s 5G networks, Ai Weiwei has warned.
The artist and activist, who has been exiled from his homeland since 2015, branded the move “short-sighted profit seeking”, adding that the British would “feel sorry later”.
Boris Johnson’s government last week gave the green light to Huawei to help build the next-generation mobile network, despite warnings the company posed a risk to national security.
UK spooks admitted they did not trust Huawei, but said any risks to security could be managed, while industry experts welcomed the decision as a boost to the country’s 5G rollout plans.
But in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, Ai today accused the UK of ignoring the dangers in its pursuit of immediate profit.
“China has the most sophisticated surveillance that has so far been developed and they’re fast developing this in an unthinkable way,” he said. “I think the UK and every nation should be aware of it.”
When asked if the UK had underestimated the threat from China, the dissident artist said: “I don’t know if it’s underestimated or [if] it’s intentionally given up all those values.”
Ai, who was imprisoned in China on allegations of financial crimes, said the communist state had “absolute control” over the public, including in the most rural areas.
He also took aim at western governments for cooperating with Beijing despite being aware of the values the country’s regime represented.
“If governments in the west can accept a government like China and can make it so big and strong, I think it’s a double standard, because they know what the Chinese government represents – the kind of value.”
Ai moved to Berlin after being allowed to leave China in 2015, but last year relocated to Cambridge, stating that German society had become intolerant towards refugees.