Sat, May 11, 2019 - Page 10 News List

US FCC bars China Mobile Ltd

SECURITY CONCERNS:The FCC focused on a law that requires Chinese firms to cooperate with intelligence agencies, which could be used for intelligence activities


The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has barred China Mobile Ltd (中國移動) from the US market over national security concerns and said it was opening a review of other Chinese companies amid friction between the world’s biggest economies.

The FCC voted 5-0 to deny China Mobile’s request to enter the US market, after being urged to do so by the administration of US President Donald Trump.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai after the vote said the agency is “looking at” authorizations granted earlier to China Telecom Corp (中國電信) and China Unicom Ltd (中國聯通).

Pai declined to say what that process entails.

The FCC said it had determined China Mobile is controlled by the Chinese government.

“The Chinese government could use China Mobile to exploit our telephone network to increase intelligence collection against US government agencies and other sensitive targets that depend on this network,” Pai said. “That is a flatly unacceptable risk.”

The vote came as senior Chinese officials visited Washington for negotiations to resolve the trade dispute.

In the most dramatic step yet, the US raised tariffs to 25 percent on more than US$200 billion of goods from China yesterday, as people familiar with the talks said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) top trade envoy and his US counterparts made little progress on Thursday.

The Trump administration is also trying to persuade allies to shun Huawei Technologies Co (華為), the Shenzhen-based telecom network supplier that US officials call a security risk.

Huawei officials dispute the accusation.

The FCC is considering whether to allow Huawei to operate in the US and is awaiting a recommendation from the Trump administration, Pai said.

The FCC vote rejected an application filed in 2011 by China Mobile International (USA) Inc.

The agency said parent company China Mobile is 100 percent owned by the Chinese government.

China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile phone operator by customers, with about 899 million subscribers. It wanted approval to be listed as a “common carrier” that would let it to carry international voice traffic between the US and foreign nations, and to connect that traffic with the US telecommunications network.

China Mobile told the agency it would not provide domestic telephone or mobile services in the US.

Granting the request would have given China Mobile greater access to telephone lines, fiber-optic cables and cellular networks, raising concerns about its ability to alter, block and reroute traffic, the White House told the FCC.

“They consider the risks to be unacceptable,” the FCC said in a document prepared for Thursday’s vote. “The Chinese government could use China Mobile USA to conduct or to increase economic espionage and intelligence collection against the United States.”

US concern focused on a Chinese law that requires companies to cooperate with state intelligence agencies, which the US has said could be used for economic espionage or intelligence activities.

China Mobile’s size and technical resources make it particularly vulnerable to such demands, the US government said.

The moves by the FCC would not have an impact on China Unicom, chairman Wang Xiaochu (王曉初) told reporters in Hong Kong yesterday.

The telecom has not breached any law, international or local, and it relies on partners in the US, where it has no facilities, he said.

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