Germany says Huawei must provide assurances on data

Governments concerned over threat of Chinese spies

By SHERISSE PHAM, STEPHANIE HALASZ AND ANGUS WATSON CONTRIBUTED REPORTING.
David Becker/Getty Images

(CNN) - Huawei is facing growing pressure from Germany to guarantee it will not hand over data to the Chinese government.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told students during a trip to Japan that "there are big discussions about Huawei" in Germany as the country develops super-fast fifth generation, or 5G, telecommunications networks.

"We need to talk to China to ensure that companies do not simply give up all data that is used to the Chinese state," said Merkel. She added that "safeguards" were needed to protect data.

Huawei's business has come under threat as an increasing number of governments express concern that its technology could be used by Chinese spies.

The company denies that its products are a security risk. It also maintains that it is a privately owned company with no ties to the Chinese government.

Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent after business hours in China.

The specific assurances being sought by Germany were not immediately clear on Tuesday. German carrier Deutsche Telekom said last year it was taking the discussion about Chinese manufacturers "very seriously."

"We are pursuing a multi-vendor strategy for the network elements used (manufacturers primarily Ericsson, Nokia, Cisco, Huawei)," it said in December. "Nevertheless we currently reevaluate our procurement strategy."

Huawei has spent decades building a strong presence in scores of markets around the world, helped by reliable hardware and competitive pricing.

It is the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker, and last year overtook Apple as the second biggest supplier of smartphones. It expects to overtake Samsung in that category by 2020.

Huawei's leaders accept that the environment is becoming more hostile.

"In the next few years, the overall situation will not be as optimistic as we imagined. We must prepare for hardships," Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in November.

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