The government has said it has “serious concerns” about the risk of China gaining access to the UK’s telecoms infrastructure.
Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), said the government is worried about the risk of interference from “both state and non-state actors”.
Wright referred to a Chinese intelligence law, passed last year, requiring any individual or organisation to cooperate with national intelligence work when asked, though he added these types of laws are “not uncommon”.
“The recent attribution of state-sponsored malicious cyber activity to the Chinese Ministry of State Security reiterates the importance of our continued vigilance in this area,” he wrote.
The comments came in a letter to Norman Lamb, chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee, dated 6 March.
Lamb had written to the government asking for assurances over the UK’s communications infrastructure amid growing concern about the security of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.
The US has urged its allies not to allow Huawei to participate in national 5G infrastructure due to fears its technology could be used by Chinese authorities for spying.
“The UK, like many countries, is looking at the right policy approach to 5G security,” Wright wrote in his response. But the government is yet to reach a verdict on the issue.
Last year the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which monitors the security of Huawei equipment, said it could only provide “limited assurances” that the risk to national security had been mitigated.
The NCSC’s latest report is due out in the coming weeks and will feed into the government’s upcoming review of the telecoms supply chain.
But Lamb hit back at the government, saying the response had “shed very little light” on the extent of potential threats or on how the government is managing the risk.
“One thing is clear: there are obvious tensions between the various departments involved, reinforcing the view that the government is struggling to reach a consensus on this issue,” he added.
Last month the Times reported Wright had been tussling with foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and defence secretary Gavin Williamson over how to formulate a joint response to the letter.