Belgium’s State Security Service (VSSE) is investigating Huawei due to concerns of Chinese espionage around the EU and NATO in Brussels, according to confidential documents and anonymous sources. The scrutiny of Huawei’s EU activities comes as Western security agencies are sounding the alarm over companies with links to China. British, Dutch, Belgian, Czech, and Nordic officials were all advised to stay off TikTok on work phones due to concerns over Chinese security legislation forcing companies to hand over data. The VSSE is looking into the direct ties between the Chinese state and Huawei’s Brussels office, particularly regarding its employees who held posts in Brussels institutions, granting them access to a network of EU contacts.
At the core of Western concerns surrounding Huawei is whether the firm can be instrumentalized by the Chinese government to gain access to critical data in Western countries. The VSSE’s investigation is part of security officials’ activities to examine how China may be using non-state actors to advance the interests of the Chinese state and its Communist party in Europe. Huawei’s EU lobbying offices have been a major lobbying power in EU policymaking over the past decade. However, the company’s Shenzhen HQ started ramping down its EU presence in 2019, folding its activities across Europe into its regional HQ in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Huawei has continuously stressed it is independent from the Chinese state. One key concern brought up by Western security authorities is that Huawei as a China-headquartered company is subject to Beijing’s National Intelligence Law, which requires companies to “support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts” as well as “protect national intelligence work secrets they are aware of.” The VSSE said it is concerned with foreign states’ influence on EU decision-making, which was highlighted by the recent Qatargate scandal. Belgian security services are tasked with overseeing foreign actors’ operations around EU institutions.
Huawei added to Belgian intelligence’s watchlist.
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