Diplomacy

Huawei products banned by Taiwanese tech institute as island targets Chinese brands

  • Decision covers Chinese firm’s smartphones and computers for security reasons amid concern over their capacity to steal information
  • It follows US calls to blacklist Huawei and Taiwan’s introduction of law forbidding use of certain Chinese products in government systems

Lawrence Chung UPDATED :

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A Taiwanese government-subsidised institute has blocked Huawei smartphones and computers from accessing its internal network, becoming the first semi-official organisation on the self-ruled island to act on US calls to blacklist the Chinese telecoms giant.

The move, effective from noon local time on Tuesday, also came two weeks after Taiwan enacted its Information and Communication Security Management Act, introduced to try to block leaks of confidential information and malicious hacking into the systems of government departments and agencies.

In an internal circular on Monday, the Industrial Technology Research Institute announced that “users of Huawei’s products will be unable to gain access to the institute’s internal network for the sake of information security”.

The institute, Taiwan’s leading applied hi-tech research and development agency, works to advance the island’s hi-tech capabilities.

The decision was made in line with the Taiwan government’s listing of Huawei among the mainland Chinese companies whose use in Taiwanese government systems is restricted, the institute said.

In her new year message, President Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, said Taiwan needed to strengthen its information security shield against possible hacking or disruption by Beijing, which Taipei says has persistently used disinformation to try to undermine Taiwan’s internal security.

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Her message echoed that of US President Donald Trump, who has accused Huawei of selling equipment to companies and bodies in the United States and other parts of the world with “back doors” built in to steal confidential information or hack into the systems of governments and big companies. Washington has convinced several allies to blacklist Huawei’s 5G network equipment.

Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka confirmed on Tuesday that Huawei was one of the brands of Chinese-made telecoms and information products that were banned from use in Taiwanese government systems under its new legislation.

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“The presidential office, cabinet and other government departments have banned the use of Chinese-brand information products for more than six years, and they include Huawei,” she said.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that, in addition to banning the use of Huawei and other Chinese-brand information products, it was using an app to safeguard its military against use of mobile phones with cameras to reveal sensitive information.

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“To ensure information security, all servicemen must install an app designed for the military to make sure no one can use their smartphones to access the internet and take pictures of military facilities,” a ministry official said.

Apple’s iPhones have settings that can disable the app, and have been banned from use in the military since July, the official added.

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