By Associated Press
LONDON: The Chinese tech company Huawei on Saturday announced it has fired a sales director who was arrested in Poland and charged with spying for China, saying he has brought the firm’s reputation “into disrepute.”
The company said it has “decided to terminate the employment of Mr. Wang Weijing, who was arrested on suspicion of breaking Polish law.”
Polish authorities said Friday they have arrested Wang, a Chinese citizen and former diplomat, along with a Polish cybersecurity expert who had held several top government cybersecurity jobs and also worked at the telecom company Orange.
Huawei said Wang’s actions “have no relation to the company” and that he was fired because “the incident in question has brought Huawei into disrepute.”
The arrest rekindled tensions between China and the West over cybersecurity concerns surrounding Huawei. It’s the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications equipment but has been banned in the U.S. since 2012 over fears it’s a security risk.
Earlier this week, Polish security agents searched the Warsaw offices of Huawei and Orange, Poland’s leading communications provider, seizing documents and electronic data. The homes of both men, also in Warsaw, were also searched, according to Internal Security Agency spokesman Stanislaw Zaryn.
Huawei had ambitious plans in Europe to roll out next-generation “5G” mobile networks. But some European governments and telecom companies are following the U.S. lead in questioning whether using Huawei for vital infrastructure for mobile networks could leave them exposed to snooping by the Chinese government.
“One thing is clear: this is another nail in the coffin of Huawei’s European ambitions,” said Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute, a think tank.
Poland is Huawei’s headquarters for Central and Eastern Europe and the Nordic region.
Maciej Wasik, deputy head of Poland’s Special Services agency, said the operation that resulted in the arrests had been underway for a long time. He said “both carried out espionage activities against Poland.”
Zaryn told The Associated Press that prosecutors have charged the two men with espionage, but agents are continuing to collect evidence and interview witnesses. Further indictments are expected, he said.
Polish state television TVP reported that the men have proclaimed their innocence, but Zaryn could not confirm that. If convicted, they could face up to 10 years in prison each.