WARSAW: Poland’s counter-intelligence service has arrested a Chinese sales director of tech giant Huawei and a Polish former senior intelligence agent in Warsaw on suspicion of spying, according to media reports in the central European country.
On Friday, China’s foreign ministry expressed grave concerns over the incident and urged Poland to protect the lawful rights of the Chinese detainee.
A spokesman for China’s embassy in Warsaw told Chinese state media that Beijing “attached great importance” to the case and was following it up with the Polish foreign ministry.
Polish public broadcaster TVP identified the Huawei employee as the Chinese company’s sales director in Poland, “Weijing W”, also known as Stanislaw Wang.
“Piotr D” was a former high-ranking officer of Poland’s Internal Security Agency, the report quoted a court document of their arrest as saying.
The two men were accused of spying against Poland for China but details of the charges were not released.
ISA officers raided the homes of both suspects on Tuesday morning. They also seized documents and electronic data from the offices of Huawei and mobile phone operator Orange Polska, where Piotr D had worked recently, the TVP report said.
A Chinese diplomatic source told the South China Morning Post that a senior Chinese embassy official contacted the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs offering consular services for the Chinese detainee.
Because he was not covered by diplomatic immunity, Weijing W would remain in detention for at least three months, according to TVP.
Huawei confirmed the arrest, without giving more information.
“Huawei is aware of the situation, and we are looking into it. We have no comment for the time being,” the company said in a statement.
“Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, and we require every employee to abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where they are based.”
Maciej Wasik, deputy head of Poland’s special services, told Polish state news agency PAP that the “Chinese national is a businessman working for a major electronics company … The Pole is a person known in circles associated with cyber business”.
The detainees could face up to 10 years in prison, TVP reported.
According to his Linkedln profile, Weijing Wang is a Polish language graduate of Beijing Foreign Studies University. From 2006, he worked at the Chinese consulate in Gdansk before starting work at Huawei in 2011 and taking over responsibility for the company’s public relations in Poland. In 2017, he was appointed sales director of Huawei’s Polish operations.
Poland is Huawei’s headquarters for central and eastern Europe and the Nordic region. It also has a joint innovation centre specialising in supercomputing in the country.
Weijing W is the second Huawei senior executive to be detained after the company’s chief financial officer, Sabrina Meng, was taken into custody in Canada last month at the request of a US prosecutor. Meng was later released on bail.
Pressure has been building on Huawei in Europe since Meng’s arrest. Last month the European Union’s technology commissioner, Andrus Ansip, warned member states of the security risk surrounding Huawei. And this week both Norway and Sweden said they would begin investigating whether Huawei should be used to help build 5G infrastructure in those countries, according to Norwegian press.
In addition, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis this week ordered 160 key public and private organisations to investigate their vulnerability to attacks via products made by Huawei or ZTE, another Chinese telecommunications company, according Czech reports.
In Poland, Huawei is one of the top sellers of smartphones and supplies equipment for the country’s 5G network via Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-mobile Poland.
It also teamed up with Orange Polska on urban 5G testing in Poland.
But in December Deutsche Telekom said it would review its vendor strategy and Orange said it would not hire the Chinese firm to build its 5G network in France.
Marcin Przychodniak, China analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, said the arrest came as a surprise, but should not be seen as part of broader concerns about Huawei in Europe.
“I do not believe there is a coordinated effort. There are two separate issues: reasonable concerns related to the security of 5G networks, and criminal cases as in this case with Poland,” he said.