Beijing on Monday condemned Washington over reports that the US National Security Agency had for years had been secretly tapping the networks of Chinese telecoms and Internet giant Huawei.
The New York Times and Germany’s Der Spiegel said that the NSA had accessed Huawei’s email archive, communications between top company officials, and even the secret source code of some of its products.
The reports were based on documents provided by fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Beijing is “seriously concerned” about reports that the US had compromised Huawei’s networks, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular briefing on Monday.
“China has launched representations to America on many occasions,” Hong said, citing reports of US surveillance activities in countries across the globe. “We ask America to give a clear explanation and stop such behaviour.”
Beijing itself has repeatedly been accused of large-scale cyber-espionage, which it vehemently denies.
The Chinese reprimand came after a top Huawei official similarly denounced the NSA.
“If the actions in the report are true, Huawei condemns such activities that invaded and infiltrated into our internal corporate network and monitored our communications,” Roland Sladek, Huawei’s vice president for international affairs, said in a statement.
He added that Huawei “disagrees with all activities that threaten the security of networks” and stressed the company’s willingness to “jointly address the global challenge of network security”.Shenzhen-based Huawei was founded in 1987 by former People’s Liberation Army engineer Ren Zhengfei and is now among the world’s top makers of telecommunications equipment. Washington has long seen it as a security threat due to perceived close links to the Chinese government, which the company denies, and both the United States and Australia have barred it from involvement in broadband projects over espionage fears.
The original intent of the NSA’s Operation “Shotgiant” was to search for connections between the tech giant and the Chinese military, according to a 2010 document cited by the Times.
But the programme’s goal eventually grew to include the penetration of Huawei communications products sold to third countries in order to “gain access to networks of interest” across the globe, the paper said.