Congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle proposed bills on Wednesday to ban exports of chips or other gear to Huawei, ZTE and any Chinese telecom that runs afoul of U.S. sanctions or export laws.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) introduced the legislation, which directly points to Huawei and ZTE, Reuters reported. Congressional members fear that networking equipment made by both companies could house back doors for the Chinese to spy on the U.S.
Word surfaced in late December that President Trump for months had been considering signing an executive order along the same lines as the proposed bill, Reuters reported. Last August, Trump signed a bill prohibiting U.S. government agencies from using Huawei and ZTE equipment. Four countries have banned Huawei from their fifth-generation (5G) mobile network trials, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S.
Both Huawei and ZTE have faced intense scrutiny for allegedly trying to skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran. Early last month, Huawei’s chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada over trade suspicions with Iran and faces extradition to the U.S. Wanzhou is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei.
“Huawei is effectively an intelligence-gathering arm of the Chinese Communist Party whose founder and CEO was an engineer for the People’s Liberation Army,” Cotton told Reuters. “If Chinese telecom companies like Huawei violate our sanctions or export control laws, they should receive nothing less than the death penalty — which this denial order would provide.”
Both Huawei and ZTE have repeatedly denied the accusations.
Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he is concerned over the potential danger of deploying Huawei and ZTE telecom equipment in U.S. networks.