Huawei 5G ban is upheld by Swedish court in further blow to Chinese telecoms giant’s European plans

·4-min read

A Swedish court has upheld a ban on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies selling 5G equipment in the country.

Sweden’s regulator, the Post and Telecom Authority, banned the company along with Chinese counterpart ZTE from the network in October because of security concerns on the recommendation of the nation’s intelligence services. Huawei lost its initial appeal in December.

“Sweden’s security is of heavy importance and the administrative court has taken into account that only the Security Police and the armed forces together have an overall picture regarding the security situation and the threat to Sweden,” the court said in a statement on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

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A Huawei representative said the company was “disappointed” with the verdict, but added that it was “not the final ruling on our case”.

“We are currently studying the judgment and the court’s reasoning to determine what further legal remedies to pursue to protect our legitimate rights and interests. Our door remains open to constructive dialogues with relevant parties to work out practical solutions to mitigate any security concern,” the statement said.

It added that the regulator had “failed to produce any facts or evidence to demonstrate that Huawei’s equipment has technical security issues”.

It is the latest blow to Huawei’s European plans after a series of bans.

Earlier this month, Romania barred the company from taking part in its 5G roll-out, also citing security risks.

US telecoms regulator designates China’s Huawei and ZTE as security threats

Last year, Britain banned the installation of Huawei 5G equipment starting in September 2021, and it ordered Huawei to be phased out of its 5G network by 2027, following the lead of the United States.

Other European countries, including France and Germany, have mulled a ban on Huawei. Last July, the EU encouraged member states to stop using suppliers that may add to cybersecurity risks, a move that was widely seen as targeting Chinese firms.

The Stockholm court’s decision to uphold the ban will stoke speculation that Swedish giant Ericsson, both a competitor and a customer of Huawei, will face retaliation in China.

In response to questions about the Swedish ban of Huawei and ZTE, China said in January that it would “take all necessary measures” to defend its companies overseas.

It is possible that the Swedish firm Ericsson, both a competitor and a customer of Huawei, will face retaliation in China. Photo: TT News Agency/AFP
It is possible that the Swedish firm Ericsson, both a competitor and a customer of Huawei, will face retaliation in China. Photo: TT News Agency/AFP

“We urge Sweden to immediately correct its approach, considering the overall position of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, and meet China halfway to find a workable solution,” said former foreign ministry spokesman Gao Feng.

Swedish media reported that after the ban on Huawei, Ericsson’s chief executive had lobbied Anna Hallberg, the country’s trade minister, to say the ban would be “bad for Ericsson” because it “singles out our Chinese competitor in a way no other EU country has done”.

Swedish companies have already felt blowback in China this year. Swedish clothing giant H&M was at the centre of a consumer boycott after it announced it would not use cotton from the Western Chinese region of Xinjiang because of the suspected use of forced labour.

“Even if the Chinese government didn’t consciously try to send a signal to Sweden with the H&M boycott, people in Sweden noticed it – it was big news here. There is a general expectation that economic retaliation from China because of the Huawei case might be possible,” said Bjorn Jerden, director of the Swedish National China Centre.

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The company’s problems also continue to be transatlantic.

In early June, the Biden administration included Huawei on a list of 59 Chinese firms it said had ties to China’s military or surveillance industries, barring US entities from investing in them.

Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said that recent events showed that “the problem with Huawei goes beyond the very unusual approach of the Trump administration”.

“With China increasingly represented by Wolf Warrior diplomats, Huawei’s reassurance that its roles in critical infrastructures – including 5G – do not look sufficiently reassuring to democracies that are not friends of Trump,” Tsang said. “Huawei will have to accept that credibility exists on the basis of how others see one, not by one asserting that no one needs to worry about me, as I am all above board.”

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