Chinese tech giant Huawei has sued the U.S. government, arguing that legislation Congress passed last year restricting its business in the United States is “unconstitutional.”
The case, which analysts see more as a public relations move, is the latest in an intensifying effort by the telecommunications company to fight U.S. security concerns that Huawei argues are unfair and unfounded.
In its lawsuit, Huawei argues that Section 889 of the National Defense Authorization Act violates the constitutional principles of separation of powers and due process. By singling out the company and punishing it without a trial, the company also argues that the law violates the Constitution’s the bill of attainder clause.
A Canadian judge has set the date for a new hearing in the case of a Chinese executive with the global tech giant Huawei, who U.S. prosecutors are hoping to extradite to face charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.
Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei and daughter of its founder, is due back in court May 8. She stands accused of overseeing transactions that violate U.S. sanctions on Iran. She denies the charges, and her lawyers argued Tuesday that it will take time to develop her defense in part because of political issues and comments by U.S. President Donald Trump.
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Section 889 bans federal agencies and their contractors from purchasing equipment and services from Huawei as well as another Chinese telecom company ZTE. President Donald Trump signed it into law last year.
“This ban is not only unlawful but also harms both Huawei and U.S. consumers,” Huawei’s rotating chairman, Guo Ping, told reporters Thursday in Shenzhen. “This section strips Huawei of its due process, violating the separation of powers principles, breaks U.S. legal traditions, and goes against the very nature of the constitution.”
Guo said that Huawei was left with no choice but to take legal action, noting that neither lawmakers nor the government had shown any proof to date to back up concerns the company is a security concern.
On Thursday, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, but said the government needs to be vigilant when making procurement decisions.
“The United States advocates for secure telecom networks and supply chains that are free from suppliers subject to foreign government control or undue influence, which would pose risks of unauthorized access and malicious cyber activity,” said Palladino in response to questions posed by VOA during a briefing.
“We believe that these risks posed by vendors subject to extrajudicial or unchecked compulsion by foreign states that do not share our values need to be weighed rigorously before making procurement decisions on these technologies,” he added.
Huawei’s chief legal officer, Song Liuping, said the company has no choice but to defend itself and try to clear its name.
“Section 889 is based on numerous false, unproven, and untested propositions. Contrary to the statutes’ premise, Huawei is not owned, controlled, or influenced by the Chinese government,” Song said.
That, however, is a central point of the debate over Huawei: how much a security threat the company is? And is it really independent from China’s authoritarian government?
That debate is heating up at a crucial time as countries across the globe are preparing to roll out next generation mobile communications networks or 5G, an area where Huawei is a global leader.
Robots, cars, drones and virtual-reality gaming sets connected by cutting-edge 5G networks are among the thousands of futuristic gadgets on display at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
While there is much excitement over how 5G will transform our everyday lives, the conference is overshadowed by the standoff between the United States and Beijing over the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which the U.S. says could be used by the Chinese government for espionage.
Some U.S. cities and parts of Asia are already operating 5G mobile networks.
Some US cities and parts of Asia are already operating 5G mobile networks, but Huawei has been banned from 5G rollout in the US
At the press conference, Huawei officials argued repeatedly that the ban would cut off Americans from its advanced technology. They also gave assurances again that the company would never install backdoors into their equipment and that it puts the security concerns of its customers first.
Some countries, including the United States, Australia, and New Zealand believe Huawei is a security threat and have already banned the company from their roll outs of next generation mobile communications networks.
Others, including Britain, Canada, and Germany, are still weighing a decision. At the same time, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is in Canadian custody and is facing extradition to the United States to face charges of alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran.
With Huawei fighting a battle on multiple fronts, the lawsuit is as much about public relations as it is an effort to clear itself of accusations that it is a security threat.
Legal analysts said it is unlikely the case will even go to trial.
“As a PR matter, this is brilliant, the fact that we are just talking about this now, tells you this is a great PR move, as a legal matter, this is a reach, to put it charitably,” said law professor David Law of Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Hong Kong. “I just can’t see how a federal district judge in Texas is going to let this go to trial much less hand Huawei a win.”
The case could put more pressure on the U.S. government to disclose more evidence to support its claims about the alleged security threat the company poses, according to some legal analysts. That could help Huawei in the process, said the Taiwan Bar Association’s Calvin Yang.
“I think this is a move that carries more political weight than any litigation significance,” Yang said, adding that the company’s case was more about challenging the legitimacy of U.S. accusations. “It’s using judicial procedure to force the federal government to provide more evidence to support its allegations of so-called backdoors in Huawei’s equipment.”
A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday dismissed two lawsuits by Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab that sought to overturn bans on the use of the security software maker’s products in U.S. government networks.
The company said it would seek to appeal the decision, which leaves in place prohibitions included in a funding bill passed by Congress and an order from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The bans were issued last year in response to allegations by U.S.