China has hit out at the British government’s decision to strip Huawei equipment from its 5G network, questioning whether Britain can provide a “fair” environment for business.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday ordered telecoms firms to strip equipment from the Chinese tech giant out of 5G networks by 2027.
The move, which will delay the deployment of 5G technology by up to three years and add billions to the cost, came after Britain’s experts warned that highly restrictive US sanctions meant the security of Huawei’s equipment could not be guaranteed.
The Chinese ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, called the decision “disappointing and wrong”.
“It has become questionable whether the UK can provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for companies from other countries,” he tweeted.
The reaction from China signals a reversal in relations since former prime minister David Cameron heralded a “golden era” between the two countries less than five years ago.
The decision, taken by the National Security Council, led to concerns being raised in the British parliament about the possibility of retaliation from Beijing, but ministers insisted they would not be “cowed” by China.
Huawei said it was disappointed by the move and said decisions on its future in Britain had become politicised.
From next year, telecoms firms will be banned from purchasing new 5G equipment from Huawei and will have to remove all the Chinese company’s kit by 2027.
They are also expected to be ordered to shift away from buying Huawei’s equipment for full-fibre broadband networks for up to two years.
The decisions were taken at a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by Mr Johnson on Tuesday morning (local time).
It followed an assessment of the impact of US sanctions by experts from the National Cyber Security Centre.
In January, the company had been given permission to play a limited role in the 5G network, but Downing Street insiders said the sanctions imposed in May were a “game changer”.
The restrictions imposed by Donald Trump’s administration removes Huawei’s access to products that have been built based on US semiconductor technology.