A spokesman for the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has slammed “unfounded” allegations contained in a controversial dossier that claim China and its telecom giant ran a “covert campaign” to manipulate MPs and influential establishment figures in the UK to turn them into “useful idiots”, reported the Daily Mail.
"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," said the spokesman.
The 86-page report cited by the outlet, titled China’s Elite Capture, details what was allegedly an effort by Beijing to persuade influential individuals to get behind Huawei and the far-reaching strategic aims it pursues.
The dossier was ostensibly financed by US film producer Andrew Duncan, known for speaking out against Huawei as a “security risk”, who hired former MI6 spy Christopher Steele and his company Orbis Business Intelligence, among others, to contribute.
Steele is notorious for his role in issuing a highly controversial 'dossier' about alleged misconduct and conspiracy between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government before and during the 2016 election – accusations that both implicated sides have always vehemently denied.
The report alleges that fake radio shows, based abroad, were set up and senior figures invited for interviews and panel discussions with the aim of encouraging them to support Huawei, with other suggested techniques used, such as phishing emails and social media platforms.
The dossier, cited by the outlet, reportedly said:
“The targets did not know that the radio stations were fake and thought they were participating in interviews with online radio stations from Hong Kong, Belgium, India and Austria.”
The dossier names several prominent individuals believed to have been targeted as part of the pro-Huawei campaign.
The report was also cited as questioning earlier UK assertions that implied security risks involving Huawei could be mitigated, insisting that a “cell” set up on UK soil to monitor the work of the Chinese company could not prevent potential spying on communications.
According to the document, which is not being formally published, the cell in question is the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre Oversight Board in Banbury, Oxfordshire, which is financed by Huawei but supervised by Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
UK Figures Targeted
British figures targeted by the pro-Huawei campaign, the dossier claims, included Sir Kenneth Olisa, the Lord Lieutenant of London, and Sir Mike Rake, the former chairman of BT Group (earlier British Telecommunications plc), currently on its non-executive UK board.
Other influential figures that China and Huawei reportedly made a play for were Lib Dem peer Lord Clement Jones, a spokesman for the digital economy and former Huawei adviser, and Dr. Sarah Wollaston, who at the time chaired the liaison committee, made up of the chairmen of the 32 Commons select committees.
Another “target” was John Suffolk, the former Government chief information officer, who became Huawei’s head of global security.
On Monday night, four of the five figures denied the claims, reports the outlet.
Sir Kenneth was quoted as saying:
“I was surprised to discover I turned up on radio shows in India and I’d love to hear the recording.”
Lord Clement-Jones denied ever participating in the alleged radio shows:
“I’ve never taken part in anything like that.”
He added there would have been no need to target him, as he sits on Huawei's international advisory board.
“My connection to the company is well known. They don’t have to have fake radio shows to reach me as far as I’m concerned. It’s all very baffling. It’s all a fantasy. We are not putty in the hand of manipulators,” the peer was quoted by The Guardian as saying.
Sir Mike Rake said he had never had contact with any “third-party organisation or social media purporting to support Huawei.”
John Suffolk added:
“This is nonsense. If someone is paying money to influence me through social media I would suggest they demand their money back.”
Dr Sarah Wollaston was quoted as responding:
“I was approached as liaison committee chairman by the House magazine to ask if we would have an event sponsored by Huawei but I turned it down… I wouldn’t have taken any money from a company like Huawei. If they were sending me emails, I wouldn’t have seen them as my team would have known I wouldn’t have accepted it.”
The report also alleged that the “origins of China’s elite capture of the UK come from the David Cameron era”.
It claims that George Osborne, Cameron’s finance minister, spearheaded a campaign to encourage Chinese investment into the country and snuff out any criticism of Beijing’s human rights record.”
‘No Basis in Fact’
The cited dossier contains no corroborating evidence to back its claims.
Huawei has dismissed the allegations against it, with a spokesman branding the report as part of a US attempt to discredit it and lock it out of the 5G rollout in the UK.
China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, was earlier cited as saying:
“I would totally reject any accusation of interference in the UK’s internal affairs.”
The controversial report cited by the outlet surfaced as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is suggested as debating a change of heart on the issue of Huawei, which was earlier granted a limited role in the non-core parts of the 5G rollout in the country.
An alliance of at least 60 Tory MPs, including former ministers, were reportedly threatening to vote down any attempt to allow Huawei to infiltrate the network, citing not only security concerns, long used by Washington to pressure allies against working with the telecoms giant, but issues such as Beijing’s new security law in Hong Kong and China’s alleged attempt to cover up the initial scale of the coronavirus epidemic.