Huawei’s global head of cybersecurity has insisted the Chinese firm always complies with local laws, but denied it can be compared to companies operating in Nazi Germany.
In a tense appearance in front of the Science and Technology Committee, John Suffolk said Huawei’s approach was to abide by local laws and not pass judgement on whether those laws were right or wrong.
Huawei has come under scrutiny over its alleged ties with Beijing, with critics pointing to a national security law that requires Chinese firms to cooperate with the government.
However, Suffolk denied the law would require Huawei to participate in state surveillance.
The committee also grilled the executive over the use of Huawei technology in the Xinjiang region, where Chinese authorities have detained an estimated 1m people as part of a crackdown on the local Muslim population.
But Suffolk, a former British government IT wonk, declined to comment on whether he believed the actions of the Chinese state constituted a repression of human rights.
“We don’t make judgements in terms of whether laws are right or wrong, that’s for others to make those judgements,” he said.
In a remarkable exchange with Labour MP Graham Stringer, Suffolk also denied Huawei could be compared to IG Farben, the German company that manufactured the chemical used in Nazi gas chambers.
“I would paint a different picture,” he said, parrying accusations that he was a “moral vacuum”.
“It’s not that we care or don’t care, that’s not our starting or end position.”
Pressed on whether Huawei has cooperated with governments in the past, Suffolk admitted the company has complied with lawful requests for information.
But he insisted the firm has never been asked to do anything “untoward”.
“We as a vendor have never been asked to do anything that weakens the security of our products for any of our customers in any country,” he said.
The US has led calls for western governments to ban Huawei from their 5G networks amid concerns about spying, and has added the firm to a trade blacklist.
Details leaked from a national security meeting earlier this year revealed the UK is set to allow the Chinese firm to participate in parts of the country’s 5G network, although the government is yet to issue a formal verdict on the matter.