WARSAW, Poland >> Poland’s counter-espionage agency has arrested a Chinese manager at tech giant Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers and informed them both that they face charges of spying on Poland for China, state television reported Friday.
The two men were arrested Tuesday, according to the Internal Security Agency. Polish security agents also searched the Warsaw offices of Huawei and Orange, Poland’s leading communications provider, where the former Polish spy had recently worked, seizing documents and electronic data. The homes of both men were also searched, according to TVP, the state broadcaster.
The development comes as the U.S. is exerting pressure on its allies to block Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications network equipment.
A U.S. dispute with China over its ban on Huawei is spilling over to Europe, the company’s biggest foreign market. The company is a leader in the development of next-generation “5G” mobile networks and a key player in building them in Europe but some countries are starting to reconsider using Huawei’s equipment over data security concerns.
Some European governments and telecom companies are following the U.S. lead in questioning whether using Huawei for vital infrastructure for mobile networks could leave them exposed to snooping by the Chinese government.
Maciej Wasik, deputy head of Poland’s special service, said the operation that resulted in the arrests of the two suspects had been underway for a long time. He said “both carried out espionage activities against Poland.”
TVP said the men have proclaimed their innocence and are refusing to give testimony in the case.
TVP, which is close to the government, identified the arrested Chinese man as Weijing W., saying he was a director in Poland at Huawei. The broadcaster said the man also went by the Polish first name of Stanislaw and had previously worked at the Chinese consulate in Gdansk.
A LinkedIn profile for a man named Stanislaw Wang appears to match details of the man described by Polish television.
Wang’s resume said he worked at China’s General Consulate in Gdansk from 2006-2011 and at Huawei Enterprise Poland since 2011, where he was first director of public affairs and since 2017 the “sales director of public sector.” The resume said he received a bachelor’s degree in 2004 from the Beijing University of Foreign Studies.
State TV identified the Pole as Piotr D., and said he was a high-ranking employee at the Internal Security Agency until 2011, where he served as deputy director in the department of information security.
If convicted, the men could face up to 10 years in prison, the security agency said.
Huawei issued a statement from its Chinese headquarters saying it was aware of the situation and was looking into it.
“We have no comment for the time being. 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,” it continued.
An official at the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw says China attaches “great importance to the detention” of the Chinese citizen in Poland and that Chinese envoys had met with Polish Foreign Ministry officials on the matter. The spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said China urged Poland “to inform China about the situation of this case and arrange a consular visit as soon as possible.”
Geopolitical tensions over Huawei intensified after its chief financial officer, who is the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested Dec. 1 in Canada in connection with U.S. accusations that the company violated restrictions on sales of American technology to Iran.
The United States wants Meng Wanzhou extradited to face charges that she misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. She is out on bail in Canada awaiting extradition proceedings.
Huawei has been blocked in the U.S. since 2012, when a House Intelligence Committee report found it was a security risk and recommended that the government and private companies stop buying its network equipment.
Kelvin Chan in in London and Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.