U.S. Subpoenas Huawei Over Its Dealings in Iran and North Korea
HONG KONG — Huawei Technologies has become China’s most successful international technology company, in part by tapping markets as varied as Britain, India and Kenya.
But it also moved into markets like Syria, where American officials have imposed limits on sales of technology that could be used to commit human rights abuses, and into Iran, where sanctions have only recently eased. And its presence in such countries is now coming under greater scrutiny.
The United States Commerce Department is demanding that the company, based in the south China city of Shenzhen, turn over all information regarding the export or re-export of American technology to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, according to a subpoena sent to Huawei and viewed by The New York Times. The subpoena is part of an investigation into whether Huawei broke United States export controls.
Sent to Huawei’s American headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Plano, the subpoena called for Huawei to turn over information related to shipments to those countries over the past five years. It also sought evidence of shipments to the countries indirectly through front or shell companies. The subpoena directed company officials to testify last month in Irving, Tex., or to provide information before then; it was not clear whether the meeting took place.
Huawei has not been accused of wrongdoing. In a statement, the company said it was committed to complying with laws and regulations where it operated. The document, which was issued by the Commerce Department office that investigates export violations, is an administrative subpoena, meaning it does not indicate a criminal investigation.
Still, the scrutiny over Huawei’s dealings with those countries is emblematic of growing discord between the United States and China over control of global communications technology. It also illustrates how technology companies from both countries have been pulled into the high-stakes geopolitical contest over cybersecurity and the global management of the internet.
If the investigation finds that Huawei was acting counter to United States national security or foreign policy interests, it could limit the company’s access to crucial American-made components and other tech products. Given Huawei’s size and reach, that could affect the development of cellular networks and other large-scale technology infrastructure projects across the world.
“We do not comment with regard to ongoing investigations,” a Commerce Department spokesman said.
The subpoena was issued after the United States briefly blocked in March sales of American technology to Huawei’s smaller Chinese rival, ZTE, over similar concerns. As part of their move against ZTE, American officials released internal ZTE documents that showed the Chinese company used a rival’s business efforts in those countries as a model. While the rival was not named in the documents, its description matched Huawei.
With the new investigation into Huawei, the United States is going after a much larger target. In 2014, Huawei reported revenue of about $60 billion, about four times that of ZTE. Depending on the measure, it ranks with Ericsson of Sweden as the world’s largest supplier of the base stations and other equipment that make mobile telecommunications systems run.
Though the subpoena did not indicate whether any actions would be taken against Huawei, any major United States step to block the sales of American tech equipment to Huawei would have major implications for telecom networks across the world. Many of Huawei’s products use American components or work with American technology.
Huawei has long benefited from access to easy credit from China’s state-run lenders as it has expanded into areas where China seeks influence. But the company has drawn skepticism in the United States, where officials have put an effective block on selling its telecom infrastructure equipment.
Huawei has not shied from agreements that could draw criticism. In September, it signed a deal with Syria’s Communications and Technology Ministry to help the country develop its communications networks.
Huawei’s business in Iran has fallen under American criticism in the past. In 2011, Huawei said in a statement that it would voluntarily restrict the growth of its business in Iran. A year later, six American lawmakers wrote a letter to the State Department, calling for an investigation into whether Huawei was violating sanctions on Iran. Recently, the Congressional Research Service released a report that said that companies like Huawei appeared to have fulfilled pledges not to sell technology for blocking telecommunications in 2014.
过去，美国曾对华为在伊朗开展业务进行指责。2011年，华为发表声明称，它将自愿限制在伊朗的业务发展。一年后，六名美国议员给国务院写了一封信，呼吁对华为是否违反针对伊朗的制裁展开调查。最近，美国国会研究服务部(Congressional Research Service)发布了一份报告，文中表示2014年华为等企业似乎兑现了此前的承诺，未向进行通讯封锁的地区销售技术。