Chinese firms operating in the UK would be obliged to secretly pass on sensitive data to intelligence services if requested by the Chinese state, so have put forward an amendment to the Telecommunications (Security) Bill which requires the Secretary of State to make a designated vendor direction for any firm which is required to handover its data to the government or intelligence services of a foreign government.
Why is this amendment necessary?
- China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law obliges all firms to give the government assistance in areas of intelligence and national security if requested (Article 14). The same legislation prohibits such firms from disclosing this activity if the Chinese state deems it to be secret. This means that UK citizen data could be harnessed by the Chinese state and that firms would not be able to reveal that this had happened.
- The requirements of China’s National Intelligence Law apply to Huawei, a prominent player in the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure. Huawei is classified by the National Security Cyber Centre as a “high risk vendor” with close links to the Chinese state.
- Although the government has announced a ban on the purchase of Huawei’s 5G technology from the end of this year, Huawei equipment will be allowed to remain in the UK’s 5G network until 2027.
- The requirements of China’s National Intelligence Law not only apply to Huawei, but also ZTE and other lower profile Chinese firms which could service the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure.
- The continued involvement of Chinese firms in the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure represents the Government’s pursuit of deeper trade relationships with China at a time when the Chinese government continues to impose sanctions on a number of UK parliamentarians and citizens. This is in contrast to the European Union, where the European Parliament has voted to freeze negotiations on the EU-China CAI investment deal until China’s sanctions on EU parliamentarians and citizens are lifted.