Republicans to introduce bill to ban government employees from using Huawei, ZTE products

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Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) announced their intention on Thursday to introduce a bill that would ban U.S. officials from using products from Chinese companies deemed national security threats, such as telecom groups Huawei and ZTE. 

The Countering Chinese Attempts at Snooping Act would prohibit federal employees from conducting official business through technology from companies deemed by the State Department to be under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

The bill would require the State Department to create a list of CCP-supported companies that could pose a threat, particularly those that could be conducting espionage. 

In announcing the legislation, the senators specifically pointed to concerns around use of platforms run by Huawei and ZTE, which produce 5G wireless equipment, and by Chinese media conglomerate Tencent. 

“Companies like Tencent and Huawei are espionage operations for the Chinese Communist party, masquerading as telecom companies for the 21st century,” Cruz said in a statement. “Prohibiting the use of these platforms and stopping taxpayer dollars from being used to capitalize Chinese espionage infrastructure are common sense measures to protect American national security.”

Cruz noted that “these are just some of the measures we will have to take as the United States reevaluates its relationship with China and the CCP.” 

Hawley was also critical of the Chinese groups, calling Tencent a “glorified surveillance arm” of the CCP.  

“Chinese technology companies like Tencent and Huawei actively conspire with the CCP to conduct international surveillance and present an ongoing threat to the United States and our allies,” Hawley said in a statement. “American taxpayer money should not fund UN contracts that benefit the Chinese Communist Party.”

The bill is the latest in a string of policy decisions by the Trump administration and by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle meant to push back against Chinese tech groups. 

Concerns have mostly stemmed from a 2017 Chinese intelligence law that requires Chinese companies and citizens to provide data to the government if requested. Huawei has consistently pushed back against claims, arguing it is independent of the CCP.

The Commerce Department added Huawei and ZTE to its “entity list” last year, effectively blacklisting the groups. The Federal Communications Commission classified both companies as national security threats in November, and President Trump signed into law legislation in March that bans use of federal funds to purchase equipment from Huawei and ZTE. 

Huawei is the largest 5G equipment producer in the world, and there is no major American 5G equipment alternative. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced legislation earlier this month to help boost American 5G efforts. 

Tags Donald Trump Josh Hawley Ted Cruz

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