Report alleges that Huawei employees helped African governments spy on opponents

In the latest news on Huawei, a new report from the Wall Street Journal has alleged that technicians from the Chinese company helped governments in Uganda and Zambia to spy on political opponents in the region. The world’s largest telecommunications company has already been accused by the American government of having close ties with the Chinese government, with fears over espionage threats supposedly behind the Trump administration’s blacklisting of Huawei from dealing with U.S. companies.

Huawei already has a large presence in the African continent, and has sold surveillance tools to authorities in the region—but this new allegation is something else entirely. WSJ reports that Huawei technicians provided additional help to Ugandan and Zambian governments to spy on political opposition, such as “intercepting their encrypted communications and social media, and using cell data to track their whereabouts.”

These employees are said to have aided the Ugandan government to penetrate the Whatsapp group chat of opposition leader Bobi Wine; the information was then used to thwart rallies and eventually arrest the pop-star turned politician. It’s a similar story in Zambia, where smartphones and Facebook pages of bloggers for an opposition news page were hacked—again, this reportedly led to their arrest.

The help from Huawei was seemingly confirmed in a post by Zambia’s ruling party on their supposed official Facebook page, although we can’t confirm if this is indeed an official statement or if this page is their official page.

The report quotes a spokesman of Zambia’s ruling party saying that this is to combat “fake news”:

“Whenever we want to track down perpetrators of fake news, we ask Zicta, which is the lead agency. They work with Huawei to ensure that people don’t use our telecommunications space to spread fake news.”

However, the report failed to find any evidence of Huawei executives in China having any knowledge of the accusations above. There was also no supporting evidence from Huawei’s technology in the region. According to a Huawei spokesman:

“Huawei rejects completely these unfounded and inaccurate allegations against our business operations. Our internal investigation shows clearly that Huawei and its employees have not been engaged in any of the activities alleged. We have neither the contracts, nor the capabilities, to do so.”