China accused of targeting British political figures to back Huawei

6 July 2020, 23:55

China has been accused of targeting British political figures to back Huawei
China has been accused of targeting British political figures to back Huawei. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

China has been accused of trying to persuade influential individuals to support Huawei's integration into the UK's 5G network.

A controversial dossier - reportedly compiled with the help of former MI6 spy Christopher Steele - claims high-profile people were targeted to act as "useful idiots" for Beijing.

The move appears timed to coincide with a debate inside government as Prime Minister Boris Johnson considers reversing a decision to keep Huawei in Britain's next generation 5G communications network.

The Daily Mail reported that the 86-page document said politicians and academics were among those in the UK whose backing China sought to secure.

Huawei was said to be described as "Beijing's strategic asset" in the report.

The Chinese government has been accused of interfering
The Chinese government has been accused of interfering. Picture: PA

China's ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, later sought to dismiss fears that Huawei's involvement allows the Chinese state a backdoor access into mobile networks.

During an online press conference, he also accused some British politicians of regarding China as a "threat" or a "hostile country".

"We want to be your friend, we want to be your partner, but if you want to make China a hostile country you have to bear the consequences," he said.

A spokesman for the Chinese telecoms giant described the allegations as "unfounded", and said they were part of a "long-running US campaign" against the company.

The spokesman said: "We categorically refute these unfounded allegations, which do not bear scrutiny and are regrettably the latest in the long-running US campaign against Huawei.

"They are designed to deliver maximum reputational damage to our business and have no basis in fact."

Chinese officials in the Great Hall Of The People in Beijing
Chinese officials in the Great Hall Of The People in Beijing. Picture: PA

Sky News said that the 86-page report - entitled "China's Elite Capture" - lists what it alleges are Beijing's "main UK objectives", which include:

- The establishment of a Chinese presence in critical national infrastructure like nuclear power and telecommunications

- Using Huawei in the UK's next generation 5G network to help expand into other European markets and "undermine the Five-Eyes intelligence alliance" with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada

- Influence the UK "to support Chinese policies globally, weakening the transatlantic alliance"

Liu Xiaoming also said: "I have been ambassador here for more than ten years. I never come across any incident that would be excused by UK government, by any institutions with hard evidence of China's interference in UK's internal affairs. If you have evidence please show me but do not make disinformation, false accusations against China."

He continued: "China has fully committed to norms governing international relations. That has been our consistent policy."

The report alleged: "Britain's elite have shown naivety regarding China's true intentions, believing in a simplistic trade-focused policy.

"The term "elite capture" is used to refer to the alleged targeting by China of senior individuals across UK society, from politics and business to think tanks, the media and universities.

"Elite capture has a range of characteristics from 'useful idiots' to full-time agents of the CCP," the document said.

"All variants are present in the UK context."

Culture Secretary reveals rethink over Huawei deal

It comes amid intense pressure on Boris Johnson from his own backbenches to halt Huawei's involvement over concerns that it presents a security risk.

The Prime Minister's move to allow the company a role set the Government at odds with the US, which had repeatedly warned against the firm amid clashes with China.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Monday that US sanctions on Huawei are likely to have a "significant impact" on the firm's ability to play a role in the UK's 5G network.

He said he had received a National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) report on the Chinese technology firm and will be discussing it with Mr Johnson.