Huawei employee arrested, accused of “high-level espionage” for China

By Jon Brodkin

Illustration including a Huawei logo, a smartphone, and keyboard.

A Huawei employee was arrested in Poland on Tuesday and charged with spying for China, according to numerous media reports.

"Polish authorities detained and charged a local sales director of Huawei Technologies Co., a Chinese national, with conducting high-level espionage on behalf of China," The Wall Street Journal wrote today.

Huawei is a large maker of smartphones and telecommunications equipment.

Poland also arrested a Polish man "who [formerly] held several top government cybersecurity positions," the Associated Press reported.

"Polish security agents searched the Warsaw offices of Huawei and Orange, Poland’s leading communications provider, where the former Polish security expert recently worked, seizing documents and electronic data," the AP wrote. "The homes of both men, also in Warsaw, were also searched, according to [Internal Security Agency] spokesman Stanislaw Zaryn."

Both people "carried out espionage activities against Poland," a Polish government official told the AP. Reports identified the Huawei employee as Weijing Wang and the Polish man as Piotr D. Each person could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, the AP wrote. They reportedly proclaimed their innocence.

Wang reportedly worked at a Chinese consulate in Gdansk from 2006 to 2011, and he's been at Huawei since then.

The AP wrote that the arrest of the Huawei employee is "a fresh sign that a US dispute with China over its ban on the company is spilling over to Europe, Huawei’s biggest foreign market. Some European governments and telecom companies are following the US lead in questioning whether using Huawei for vital infrastructure for mobile networks could leave them exposed to snooping by the Chinese government."

We contacted Huawei about the arrest and will update this story if we get a response. A BBC report said that Huawei "told the BBC it was aware of the situation and was looking into it."

US government vs. China

The new arrests came about a month after Canadian authorities arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States. The charges were "related to how Ms. Meng may have participated in a scheme to trick financial institutions into making transactions that violated United States sanctions against Iran," The New York Times reported at the time.

The US recently imposed a ban preventing the US government from using technology supplied by Chinese firms ZTE and Huawei. For years, US government officials have stated concerns that Huawei and ZTE gear could be used for espionage.

The Trump administration forced ZTE to shut down by imposing sanctions in May 2018, but the company reopened after a deal that included a $1 billion fine and management changes. Huawei has lost deals with US mobile carriers and Best Buy.