WASHINGTON: Executives from China's top makers oftelecommunicationsgear denied putting hiddenspy codeinto their equipment at a rare public hearing of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
The officials fromHuawei TechnologiesCo Ltd andZTECorp, rejecting fears that their expansion in the United States poses asecurity risk, said they operated independently of the Chinese government.
The congressional panel is wrapping up a nearly year-long investigation into whether the companies' equipment provides an opportunity for greater foreign espionage and threatens criticalUS infrastructure. "We have heard reports about backdoors or unexplained beaconing from the equipment sold by both companies," Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, said in his opening statement.
The committee's report could be followed with proposed measures to exclude their products from theUS marketif they are determined to be security threats. The companies, for their part, say they are frustrated by the obstacles such allegations pose to theirUS business.
"Huawei has not and will not jeopardize our global commercial success nor the integrity of our customers'networksfor any third party, government or otherwise," senior vice president Charles Ding said in written testimony. Huawei and ZTE are fighting an uphill battle for inroads into the United States, stymied by mounting government concerns about economic espionage attributed to Beijing.
US intelligence officials call China the world's most active perpetrator of economic espionage. The keyboard-launched theft of sensitive data has been speeding up, according to a report to Congress last October by the US National Counterintelligence Executive.
ZTE said US sales of infrastructure equipment in the United States accounted for less than $30 million in revenue last year, compared with a combined total of $14 billion by two Western competitors. Shenzhen, China-based Huawei, which is owned by its employees, is the world's second-biggest telecommunications gear maker after Sweden's Ericsson. ZTE ranks fifth.
Ding and Zhu Jinyun, ZTE's senior vice president forNorth Americaand Europe, under oath to the committee, denied putting any back-door channels into their equipment. Each further vowed that their companies never would bow to a hypothetical Chinese government request to exploit their products for espionage.
"What they have been calling back doors are actuallysoftware bugs," Zhu said through an interpreter. Such glitches are not unlike those that require regular software patches from companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple, he said.
The committee aims to wrap up its investigation by the first or second week of October, Rogers told reporters after the hearing. It plans to publish classified and unclassified versions of a final report that will shed more light on the security concerns, he said, adding that the panel has interviewed many companies. "Candidly, we have gotten very poor responses" to written requests for documents put to the companies in June, Rogers told reporters.
He and the committee's top Democrat, C.A. Ruppersberger of Maryland, have asked for details about the companies' links to Chinese authorities, their inner workings and pricing strategies for US customers among other things. "When they don't answer those, it just raises more suspicions," said Rogers, a former FBI agent.
Both Huawei's Ding and ZTE's Zhu agreed at the hearing to send their lists ofCommunist Partycommittee members, something the intelligence panel said they had previously declined to do. Ding complained that Huawei's business efforts in the United States had been hindered by "unsubstantiated, non-specific" security concerns.