Imagine a scenario where the National Taxation Bureau, the National Health Insurance Administration, and the railway online ticketing systems were all contracted to Chinese-invested companies.
It is worrisome to imagine that China would know more about the exact wealth and health of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) than Taiwanese.
Even more worrying is the fact that according to the UN standards for free-trade agreements, the construction of base stations and fiber optic network are also included in the parameters for allowing foreign investment.
Not only are we faced with the potential risks of leaked information and paralysis of our networks, [as] base stations can be triangulated, Taiwan would be placed [in the center] of one big surveillance web.
LT: How do you view Hon Hai Precision Industry Co chairman Terry Gou’s (郭台銘) call for the government to use Huawei Technologies Co’s products for the establishment of 4G base stations in light of this problem?
Lee: Some are worried that the corporations have greater influence over the government than academics, as evidenced when the government brushed aside the warning of 600 academics in a joint petition, but then paid great attention to a corporate mogul.
Some see this as a sign that corporations are beginning to force the government to do their bidding.
It is known internationally that Huawei has a strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA) background, and red flags have been raised across the globe concerning the company.
A US congress report had warned that equipment from Huawei, ZTE and other such Chinese companies may pose harm to core US national security assets, and the US has limited the import of Chinese equipment.
The US has even reached out to allies such as South Korea and stopped their use of Chinese equipment.
The Australian government has also barred Huawei from participating in the establishment of Australia’s national broadband network.
It is clear that Huawei has ulterior motives as it is a non-listed private company with the ability to enter the information and communication markets of other countries with low prices.
[It is understandable that] telecommunication owners in the country want to enter the 4G market with low overhead costs, but information and communication systems are linked to national security and civilian information security; and so the promise of lucrative business may instead become a political tool to be used by China.
Gou has described equipment as “knives” and said it was the “wielder of the knives” that mattered. I wish to remind the telecom sector that “the blade can turn and harm its wielder.” [Modern-day] network equipment can interact intelligently and be remotely updated. They hold too many back doors, secrets and potential for viruses.
LT: The commission and Minister of Science and Technology Simon Chang (張善政) claimed that once information security could be managed, an appropriate amount of Chinese investors and equipment can be allowed inside the country. Do you feel we can manage complete protection of our information technology?
Lee: Government officials do not have the ability to guarantee [full protection] and are therefore spouting meaningless phrases.
I once participated in a governmental information technology security evaluation project to help the government standardize security requirements in microchip products.