- Huawei employees helped African officials spy on political opponents, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Officials in Uganda and Zambia hired Huawei employees who used their own technology along with products from outside companies to hack into the social media of political opponents.
- Huawei officials have denied the reports, saying the company does not have the “contracts, nor the capabilities, to do so.”
Huawei, a Chinese tech company President Donald Trump placed sanctions on, helped African countries spy on political opponents in at least two instances, The Wall Street Journal found.
Huawei dominates Africa’s digital industry as the country’s most successful supplier of 4G and 5G mobile networks and government surveillance systems.
In Kampala, Uganda, WSJ found that six intelligence officials working for President Yoweri Museveni, who has held his position for more than 33 years, allegedly recruited Huawei technicians to hack into the Skype and WhatsApp accounts of Museveni’s opponent.
“The Huawei technicians worked for two days and helped us puncture through,” said one senior officer at the surveillance unit.
The Chinese employees reportedly used Israeli-made spyware purchased by the Ugandan government to encrypt communications from Bobi Wine, a pop-star-turned-politician with U.S. support — and Museveni’s most threatening challenger.
The officials were able to get away with the scheme under a 2010 law that allows the government “to secure its multidimensional interests,” and were able to affectively shut down a political event disguised as a concert organized by Wine and his campaign, according to WSJ.
“They teach us to use spyware against security threats and political enemies,” one official at Uganda’s police headquarters told WSJ. (RELATED: Study: Leaked Huawei Resumes Reveal Extensive Ties To Chinese Intel Agencies)
Huawei first arrived in Uganda in the early 2000s. It was granted government contract in 2007 and in 2014, it gave Uganda 20 surveillance cameras valued at a total of $750,000. At a donation ceremony attended by Chinese government officials, Museveni thanked Huawei “for its contribution to corporate social responsibility,” WSJ reported.
Zambia similarly hired Huawei employees who used the tech giant’s technology along with the products of other companies to spy on opponents.
The country’s Huawei plan, worth $440 million, was funded by the Export-Import Bank of China. Since then, the tech giant has successfully helped to construct an information and communication technologies training center, as well as hundreds of cellphone towers.
A Huawei spokesman denied the allegations, telling WSJ in a statement that it has “never been engaged in ‘hacking’ activities.”
“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,” he said.
“Huawei’s code of business conduct prohibits any employees from undertaking any activities that would compromise our customers or end users data or privacy or that would breach any laws. Huawei prides itself on its compliance with local regulations and laws in all markets where it operates,” the spokesman continued.
Trump sanctioned the tech giant in May due to national security concerns after the Department of Justice charged the company for bank fraud, wire fraud and violating Iran sanctions. Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said the blacklisting move would cost the company $30 billion in revenue.
The U.S. has also accused the tech giant of having the capabilities to spy.
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