Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei, which has faced scrutiny from U.S. officials as a possible security risk, is expected to build a portion of the United Kingdom's fifth-generation wireless technology despite reports that the company would be banned from the project.
Simon McDonald, Britain's permanent undersecretary and head of the diplomatic service at the foreign ministry, told lawmakers that the decision to use Huawei technology in the U.K.'s 5G infrastructure plan would not be reopened, according to Reuters.
"China is a very important partner of the United Kingdom, and I think it's compatible to proceed with the Huawei decision and have the strategically independent relationship that I have been talking about," Simon said, according to Reuters.
Two unnamed U.K. government officials told Bloomberg that it could be nearly impossible to pass legislation allowing Huawei to build the country's 5G infrastructure amid concerns that China may have concealed important data related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The officials said British lawmakers were reconsidering the decision to allow Huawei to build part of the country's 5G technology, a move U.S. officials warned against in January, because of China's lack of transparency in the outset of the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Bloomberg reported.
Additionally, a group of tech firms called on House of Commons Defense Committee chair Tobias Ellwood to scrap plans to work with Huawei, according to a letter obtained by Axios on Monday.
"The U.K. now has the opportunity to put in place the most technologically advanced 5G infrastructure without needing to rely at all on 'high-risk vendors,'" the letter read.
In the wake of the reports, a Huawei spokesperson said company officials were "disappointed by some unfounded allegations" connected to reports that the U.K. might drop Huawei technology from its 5G wireless plan. Before Simon's comments, Huawei said that it intended to keep working on British 5G networks.
"We have been providing U.K. telecom carriers with cutting-edge technologies for over 15 years," the Huawei spokesperson said in a statement to FOX Business. "Building on our sound track record, we will continue to support our customers' investments into 5G networks, promote local economic growth, and help the U.K. maintain its global competitiveness."
The spokesperson added that the company, which has provided some remote U.S. telecom providers with affordable equipment, is "disappointed by some unfounded allegations" regarding the U.K.'s 5G plan.
"Both the industry and experts believe that banning Huawei equipment from the U.K. will make the country less secure, less productive, and less innovative," the spokesman said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said during a Friday briefing that China hopes the United Kingdom can "uphold principles of freedom and openness, maintain policy independence and provide Chinese companies with an open, fair and nondiscriminatory business environment,” according to Bloomberg.
"This will help Chinese companies maintain confidence in the U.K. market," he continued.
The U.K. announced in January that it would allow Huawei to build part of its 5G mobile network, despite U.S. warnings that the company could pose security risks. Huawei offers affordable, lightweight, easy-to-implement telecom equipment compared to many of its foreign competitors, which is why Western countries have considered using the company's technology.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said nations should reconsider their adoption of Huawei technology during an April 17 appearance on "Mornings with Maria."
"I am very confident that at this moment, this moment where the Chinese Communist Party failed to be transparent and open and handled data in an appropriate way will cause many, many countries to rethink what they were doing with respect to their telecom architecture," Pompeo said.
"And when Huawei comes knocking to sell them equipment and hardware, that they will have a different prism through which to view that decision," he added.
The Trump administration in 2019 put Huawei on a blacklist called the Entity List, which prohibits American companies from doing business with the Chinese firm.
Under a 2017 Chinese intelligence law implemented by President Xi Jinping, all Chinese companies must "support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law." Some U.S. lawmakers believe Huawei could face pressure from Beijing to spy on foreign countries through 5G technology under China's intelligence law.