The British defence secretary has said he has “very deep concerns” about Chinese technology firm Huawei being involved in upgrading the UK’s mobile networks.
Gavin Williamson’s comments came after some of the UK’s closest allies banned or restricted the use of the firm’s network products because of security concerns.
Australia, New Zealand and the US have restricted use of Huawei technology in 5G mobile networks and Williamson said the UK would look at their example.
“I have grave, very deep concerns about Huawei providing the 5G network in Britain. It’s something we’d have to look at very closely,” Williamson said in comments reported in The Times.
“We have to look at what partners such as Australia and the US are doing in order to ensure that they have the maximum security of that 5G network and we have to recognise the fact, as has been recently exposed, that the Chinese state does sometimes act in a malign way.”
Huawei was founded by a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army and questions have been raised about the firm’s links to the Chinese state.
The head of MI6, Alex Younger, recently said the UK would have to make “some decisions” about such firms after other governments had taken steps to block Huawei.
The firm has strongly rejected any suggestion that it poses a security threat and said in a statement that it had “never been asked by any government to build any back doors or interrupt any networks, and we would never tolerate such behaviour by any of our staff”.
Concerns over China’s activities have been heightened in recent weeks, with Britain accusing Beijing of a massive programme of industrial espionage in a “widespread and significant” campaign of “cyber intrusions” against the UK and its allies.
The foreign office said hackers acting on behalf of the Chinese ministry of state security were stealing commercial secrets from firms in Europe, Asia and the US.
Officials said their activities were so extensive, they were “putting at risk” economic growth in the UK and the wider global economy.