Huawei mounts legal challenge against US over rural carrier ban

The US Federal Communications Commission said that Huawei’s ties to the Chinese military posed a threat to US national security. (AP)
Updated 05 December 2019

Huawei mounts legal challenge against US over rural carrier ban

  • Chinese telecoms giant says federal commission ruling failed to provide evidence of a cybersecurity threat

SHENZHEN: China’s Huawei has mounted a legal challenge against the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after the body designated the technology giant as a security threat and moved to bar it from a government subsidy program.

The FCC last month voted unanimously to designate Huawei Technologies and peer ZTE Corp. as national security risks, barring their US rural carrier customers from tapping an $8.5 billion government fund to purchase Huawei or ZTE telecommunications equipment.

Huawei said on Thursday it filed a petition challenging the decision.

The FCC argued the companies’ ties to China’s government and military apparatus, and Chinese laws requiring that such companies assist the Chinese government with intelligence activities, pose a US national security risk.

It also voted to propose requiring carriers remove and replace equipment from Huawei and ZTE in existing networks.

“Banning a company like Huawei, just because we started in China — this does not solve cybersecurity challenges,” Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer, said at a news conference at the firm’s headquarters in Shenzhen.

He said the FCC has not provided evidence to show the company is a security threat and that “this decision, just like the entity list in May, is based on politics,
not security.”

The Huawei document was not yet available in the US court filing system. It is not clear when the FCC decision will come into effect.

FCC spokesman Brian Hart declined to comment. On Wednesday, the body’s chairman said he will propose $9 billion in funding over the next decade to boost fifth-generation (5G) wireless telecommunications coverage in rural US areas.

US President Trump in May placed Huawei on the country’s trade blacklist, citing national security concerns, which banned companies from supplying Huawei with US components without special licenses. The move came after Washington brought criminal charges against Huawei, alleging theft of trade secrets, bank fraud and violation of US sanctions against Iran. It has also sought to convince allies to ban it from the 5G networks over spying fears — increasing tension with Beijing amid a tit-for-tat trade war.

The US is now considering approaches that will halt more foreign shipments of products with US technology to Huawei, Reuters reported last week.

Karl Song, vice president of Huawei’s corporate communications department, said the FCC rule threatened improving connectivity in rural America, and would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and even force some small carriers to go bankrupt.

Asked to comment on Huawei’s sales to rural carriers, Song said the firm’s US revenue was “minimal” compared with the $11 billion in goods that it procured from the US.

Alan Fan, Huawei vice president of IP strategy and international legal policy, said US rural carriers and groups submitted 90 comments to the FCC, 58 percent of which opposed action against it.


Cyprus sets stage for tourism recovery as airports reopen

Updated 19 min 9 sec ago

Cyprus sets stage for tourism recovery as airports reopen

  • Mediterranean holiday island tempts visitors with bold hospitality package that includes medical care

NICOSIA: Cyprus will reopen for international tourism on Tuesday, with airports welcoming visitors after an almost three-month shutdown, and a bold plan to cover health-care costs for visitors.

But with arrivals expected to be down by 70 percent this year due to the chaos brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a leap of faith for the small Mediterranean holiday island.

“Nobody here is expecting to make any money this year,” Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said. “We are setting the stage for the beginning of our recovery in 2021.”

The divided island’s tourism sector normally accounts for around 15 percent of gross domestic product, but has dried up in past months amid global measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Cyprus saw a record 3.97 million arrivals in 2019, with more than half its market made up of British and Russian visitors.

But even if the island’s airports in Larnaca and Paphos open up to arrivals on Tuesday, with the first flight due to arrive from Athens around noon, neither Britain or Russia are among the 19 countries allowed to land there.

The list of permitted countries, which also include Bulgaria, Germany and Malta, have been chosen based on epidemiological data and split into two categories.

Initially all travellers will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test undertaken within 72 hours of travel, but from June 20, only those arriving from six countries in the second category, such as Poland and Romania, will need to do so.

The government says the lists will be revised weekly and more countries can be added.

Cyprus will also cover accommodation, dining and medical care for any tourists who fall ill with the COVID-19 illness during their stay, as well as accommodation and meals for their families and close contacts.

“What we offer and what we sell is not the sun and the sea, it’s hospitality, and this is an extension of our hospitality,” Perdios said.

The government has designated a 100-bed COVID-19 hospital for tourists that Perdios said would be located in the Larnaca region, while 112 ICU units have been allocated for visitors.

Perdios said several four-star hotels would provide 500 quarantine rooms for close contacts of those who fall ill.

A raft of other health measures, including disinfection protocols and temperature checks at border controls, aim to protect travellers and locals alike.

“We’ve gone to big lengths to think ahead of things that could go wrong and try to devise plan Bs and Cs”, Perdios said.

The Republic of Cyprus, in the south of the island, has registered 960 novel coronavirus cases and 17 deaths.

Perdios expressed hope that British tourists could be welcomed “sometime after mid-July”, with Russia “slightly later, maybe by a couple of weeks.”

A recently announced deal with Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air to open a base in Cyprus from July was also an important step towards expanding and diversifying the island’s tourist markets, he said.

While no date has been set to allow international tourists to visit the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, only recognised by Ankara, the health-care commitment would still apply to those visiting the north during their stay once the crossings are reopened.

“I am very confident that not only will we be able to continue providing our citizens with protection, but also caring for everybody who comes to the island on holiday”, he said.

“If we are coming out with a scheme like this, it’s because we can afford it, but most importantly, because we feel that it’s the right thing to do.”