UK gov faces human rights lawsuit for granting Huawei 5G role

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The UK government is facing a lawsuit from human rights activists following the decision to grant Huawei a role in 5G networks.

Lawyers representing two Uyghur activists will send a letter warning the British government of court action if it presses on with the plan to grant the Chinese telecoms giant a role – claiming it breaks UK human rights and EU procurement rules.

The activists campaign against Beijing’s treatment of Muslim minorities, predominantly in the Uyghur region but also across the west of China. Up to three million Muslims have been sent to barbaric “re-education centres” where reports are rife of torture and the separation of children from their families. Millions more are kept under strict surveillance in Xinjiang using draconian facial recognition technology.

A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute named Huawei as one of 83 brands linked to 27 Chinese factories which use workers transferred from Uyghur re-education camps.

Michael Polak, chair of Lawyers for Uyghur Rights, recently said:

“Given the evidence that Huawei is an integral part of the security apparatus where the Uyghur and other Turkic people are subjected to crimes against humanity, our clients believe it would be unconscionable for the Government to maintain a course of action welcoming them into our national infrastructure.

Our clients have bravely decided to challenge a company which has played such a large part in the oppression of the Uyghur people in atrocities which provide a perfect example of the damage which can be done by a powerful authoritarian government setting out to destroy a people and a culture.

Our Government needs to act within both its legal obligations not to contract with companies involved in gross human rights violations and with slavery tainted supply chains and its moral obligation to make it clear to the Chinese Authorities and those companies aligning themselves closely to them, that the mass detention and repression of the Uyghur people will not be tolerated.”

Following a multi-year security review, the British government decided earlier this year to permit Huawei in national 5G networks under strict conditions.

Huawei’s equipment is not allowed in any core network and in no more than 35 percent of their Radio Access Networks. Furthermore, the Chinese vendor’s gear cannot be installed near military, nuclear, or other critical sites.

The decision has faced stiff opposition, predominantly from the US which has campaigned tirelessly for its allies to ban Chinese telecoms equipment over national security concerns. US intelligence officials issued their British counterparts with a dossier earlier this year highlighting the perceived threat Huawei poses.

President Trump reportedly hung up on Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a call earlier this year described as “apoplectic” over the Huawei decision. Of course, Huawei welcomed the UK’s stance and has repeatedly denied allegations that it poses a national security threat and is controlled by Beijing.

However, the UK’s own Huawei Cybersecurity Evaluation Centre slammed the Chinese vendor in a March 2019 report for “no material progress” being made by Huawei “in the remediation of the issues reported last year, making it inappropriate to change the level of assurance from last year or to make any comment on potential future levels of assurance.”

While many, especially Huawei, will have hoped that the UK’s decision would be the end of the debate in the country – it’s perhaps of little surprise to hear that’s not the case.

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