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Huawei files defamation lawsuits in France

Huawei has filed defamation lawsuits against two individuals in France after claims that the business is controlled by the Chinese Government were aired on national television.

While these lawsuits are only coming to light now, the lawsuits were filed back in March, following interviews on television. The two individuals in question, who are remaining anonymous until the courts decide otherwise, suggested Huawei is a puppet of the Chinese Government, relating to the ownership structure and the history of founder Ren Zhengfei, who was a member of the engineering corps of the People’s Liberation Army.

Although defamation lawsuits are a very rare occurrence in the technology segment, Huawei has been taking an increasingly aggressive stance against its critics in recent months. In previous years, Huawei might have been happy to sit back, letting the hot air pass by, however 2019 has certainly seen a different strategy.

Perhaps the most notable example of this shift is the public presence of founder Ren Zhengfei. Ren has traditionally avoided the limelight though the ‘Coffee with Ren’ segments to discuss various issues and accusations directed at the firm has been regularly hitting the airwaves over the course of the year.

Alongside the more public presence of Ren, Huawei also filed a lawsuit against the US Government, suggesting it was an unconstitutional as Congress is not permitted to pass laws targeting individuals or specific companies. Although Congress did not word the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to enforce a complete ban, the nuanced language made it effectively impossible for either Huawei or ZTE to do any meaningful work in the US.

There are various other examples, but it is a much more proactive defence of the business than has been seen in previous years.

Looking at the French situation, Huawei does need to be very careful. The French Government has already created a law which allows it to veto the introduction of components or products in communications infrastructure which are deemed to compromise national security. This is not a ban, Huawei is still permitted to bid for projects, though once again nuanced language has been introduced to potentially allow a ban with little/no evidence.

While the damage to Huawei’s business has been limited for the moment, it is far from in a healthy position. Many of the major European markets are yet to make a formal, and long-term, decision on Huawei’s presence in the market. France is an influential voice across the bloc, with decisions and opinions creating ripples in other European nations.

Huawei statement:

“Huawei has filed 3 complaints alleging public defamation of the company in March 2019. The complaints relate to claims that Huawei is a Chinese company controlled by state and Chinese Communist Party; that it is led by a former “counter-intelligence” member and that it uses its technological expertise in telecom networks to commit acts of espionage to the detriment of the Western world.

“Huawei believes these statements are seriously defamatory. Huawei is a private company, 100% owned by its employees. For the last 30 years since it was founded, there has never been a serious cyber-security issue with Huawei products.

“These complaints are directed against the authors of the comments and not to the media that report them. Huawei respects the independence of the media and the freedom of the press.”


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