Australia has banned Chinese telecoms firm Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from supplying equipment for a 5G mobile network.
Australia cites risks of foreign interference and hacking as the reason for the ban but Beijing has dismissed it as an “excuse” to tilt the playing field against a Chinese firm.
According to Reuters, the move, following advice from security agencies, signals a hardening of Australia’s stance toward its biggest trading partner as relations have soured over Canberra’s allegations of Chinese meddling in Australian politics.
It also brings Australia in line with the United States, which has restricted Huawei and compatriot ZTE Corp from its lucrative market for similar reasons.
In a statement on Thursday, the Australian government said national security regulations typically applied to telecom carriers would now be extended to equipment suppliers.
It said firms “who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government” would leave the nation’s network vulnerable to unauthorized access or interference, and presented a security risk, the statement said.
It did not identify the Chinese firm, but an Australian government official said the order was aimed at Huawei and precluded its involvement in the network.
Huawei’s Australian arm, which strongly denies it is controlled by China, said on Twitter on Thursday that the action was an “extremely disappointing result for consumers”.
It tweeted: “We have been informed by the Govt that Huawei & ZTE have been banned from providing 5G technology to Australia. This is a extremely disappointing result for consumers. Huawei is a world leader in 5G. Has safely & securely delivered wireless technology in Aust for close to 15 yrs”
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China expressed “serious concern”, adding that Australia should not “use various excuses to artificially erect barriers and conduct discriminatory practices”.
China’s foreign ministry on Thursday expressed concern and urged the Australian government to “abandon ideological prejudice” and provide a level playing field for Chinese companies’ operations in tbe country.
Chinese law requires organizations and citizens to support, assist and cooperate with intelligence work, which analysts say can make Huawei’s equipment a conduit for espionage.