US lawmakers urge education secretary to probe Chinese spying at American universities

Top US lawmakers have urged education secretary to launch an investigation into possible attempts by Chinese state directed Huawei Technologies partnerships with more than 50 top American universities that may pose a significant threat to national security and can steal research and technology from them.

In a letter to the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, 26 members of Congress urged her to require American universities working with Huawei Technologies to turn over information on their joint projects.

Huawei is a Chinese tech giant that provides funding for research in communications, computer science, engineering and more. The letter from both House and Senate members including Senator Marco Rubio, says Huawei's partnerships with more than 50 US universities "threatens national security." 

"China is using Huawei to position themselves to steal American research through so-called 'research partnerships' with American universities to exploit the openness of our system of higher education," Rubio said.

Huawei and other Chinese state-directed telecommunications companies should not be allowed to operate in the United States. "We should put them out of business by denying them the ability to buy US semi-conductors," he demanded.

Rubio along with Congressman Jim Banks raised several concerns with DeVos on Chinese state-directed Huawei Technologies partnerships with US universities that may pose a significant threat to national security.

"Our intelligence community has warned about this exact type of national security threat for over a decade. Huawei is a state-directed entity that uses academic surveillance to spy and collect intelligence on America and our allies," Banks said. "Make no mistake, Huawei cannot be trusted and the Department of Education should work closely with the FBI to address China's attempts to infiltrate America's intellectual institutions," Banks said.

In their letter to DeVos, the two lawmakers said that Huawei Technologies, a "national champion" of the China, has formed a series of research partnerships with over 50 universities in the United States that threaten national security.

The US intelligence community has warned for years of Huawei's links to the Chinese government and the People's Liberation Army. Huawei benefits from extensive government support, which has fueled long-standing concern that the company's equipment in the US could be used by the Chinese government for spying, cyberattacks or industrial and economic espionage.

"As Huawei describes it, the Huawei Innovation Research Programme (HIRP) provides funding opportunities to leading universities and research institutes conducting innovative research in communication technology, computer sciences, engineering, and related fields. We believe these partnerships may pose a significant threat to national security and this threat demands your attention and oversight," they said.

Recently Christopher Wray, FBI Director, said he was "deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power. It provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage." 

Admiral Mike Rogers, then Director of the National Security Agency and Commander of United States Cyber Command, added that Government programmes need "to look long and hard at companies like this. We urge that you promptly request a complete and classified briefing by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Director of National Intelligence on Huawei and Chinese technology acquisition modalities in general (as the technology transfer problem set is bigger than Huawei)," Rubio and Banks said.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump met with Republican lawmakers after the Senate moved to block a White House plan to allow Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp. to buy component parts from the US. ZTE is accused of violating trade laws by selling sensitive technologies to North Korea and Iran. The administration announced an agreement with ZTE earlier this month but has run into opposition in Congress.

Rubio and Banks believe that both ZTE and Huawei as virtual arms of the Chinese government's overall economic aggression strategy should be banned from buying US technology components, even if that means they go out of business.


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