National security is at risk because of the large-scale procurement of base stations and core systems by major Taiwanese telecoms firms from a China-based company that has close ties to the Chinese military, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators told a press conference on Tuesday.
“Many of Taiwan’s telecoms operators, including Chunghwa Telecom Co, Taiwan Mobile Co, Far EasTone Telecommunications Co and Asia Pacific Telecom Co, have purchased base stations and core systems from China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Such foreign procurements could involve handing out records and personal information on Taiwanese to the Chinese government, leaving the public and domestic corporations open to monitoring by China,” DPP legislators Pan Men-an (潘孟安) and Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) said.
Citing business records between Huawei and Taiwan’s major telecoms operators, Cheng said the Chinese firm had probably been mapping out its strategy to invade the local market for years.
Cheng said Huawei initially won the bid for Far EasTone’s NT$1.6 billion (US$53.3 million) procurement project for wireless network controllers and base stations. Since then, almost all of Taiwan’s 3G wireless network cards are now manufactured by the Chinese firm, in addition to some of Chunghwa’s own-branded handsets, Cheng said.
Huawei is also the supplier of Taiwan Mobile’s fixed Ethernet, along with its 3.5G base stations and core network equipment, Cheng said.
“Huawei has widely pervaded Taiwan, but the National Security Bureau, the Mainland Affairs Council and the National Communications Commission [NCC] are still in the dark,” Cheng said.
In 2009, the NCC said in a statement that Type I telecommunications enterprises, such as manufacturers of fixed network products and cellphones, were by nature vital and sensitive because they concern national security and domestic industry safety.
Nearly every country has taken cautious steps in dealing with foreign investment or acquisition of their domestic telecoms operators, the commission said, adding that the government would not allow capital investments from China in Taiwan’s telecoms industry in the near future.
Despite the NCC’s promise, Huawei recently said that Taiwan would “absolutely” open up to Chinese capital to invest in Type I telecommunications enterprise in the latter half of this year,” Pan said.
“How could Huawei say such a thing, with such assurance? Has the company already received a private approval from President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration?” Pan asked.
Telecoms equipment suppliers usually set up a user name and password that enable their technical personnel to remotely control and manage the equipment, Pan said, adding that this could allow them to steal or monitor an individual’s contact information.
“Such security loopholes in Taiwan’s telecoms industry could widen after the industry’s implementation of cloud-computing systems in future,” Pan said.
Cross-Strait Agreement Watch Alliance convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) also voiced concerns over domestic telecommunications security.
“In mid-2009, the Chinese government issued a mandate that all PCs marketed in the country be installed with two content-control software — the Green Dam and the Bluedon. The following year, [China-based] Nanfang Daily also reported that China Mobile had worked in cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security to censor text messages and cut off cellphone services for users who were sending out ‘illegal content,’” Lai said.