At a glance.
- FCC designates Huawei and ZTE national security threats.
- US sanctions against Chinese firms affecting other nations' evaluations.
- Scope and duration of Chinese surveillance of it Uighur minority described.
- Hong Kong and China's new National Security Law.
FCC formally designates Huawei and ZTE national security threats.
The US Federal Communications Commission has formally designated both Huawei and ZTE as threats to the US national security. The FCC decision will, as Reuters and others point out, prevent US carriers from using money from the Universal Service Fund (which controls $8.2 billion) to purchase equipment from either company. The FCC also said that Congress would need to appropriate funds to compensate companies who now will have to rip-and-replace gear from the two Chinese manufacturers. Rural telecom carriers are most affected by the decision.
US sanctions against Chinese manufacturers begin to persuade other nations.
US sanctions in general are changing the cost-benefit calculations of prospective Huawei users in other countries as wel. The BBC reports that the British government is rethinking its own mildly restrictive, mildly permissive approach to allowing Chinese companies to participate in the UK’s 5G infrastructure. The US sanctions that forbid Huawei and its third-party suppliers from using “US technology and software” to manufacture their goods are well designed to pressure countries that use Huawei kit to revise their permissions. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace called the US measures, which come into full effect in September “a better set of sanctions than the earlier set.” They’re “specifically clearly designed in a smarter way to put countries that have high-risk vendors - specifically Huawei - under greater pressure." In any case, the UK and other countries are taking a noticeably harder line toward Huawei in particular. British authorities see the current situation in which the alternatives to the Chinese vendor are Ericsson and Nokia as “a market failure.” They’re supporting the entry of Samsung and NEC into the market to diversify the supply chain.
New research shows extent of Beijing's surveillance of China's Uighur minority.
Chinese government surveillance of its predominantly Muslim Uighur minority was apparently both more extensive and began earlier than generally appreciated, the New York Times reports. Researchers at the San Francisco-based security firm Lookout today published the results of their study of the campaign, and they’ve determined that the intrusive monitoring began at least in 2013, and wasn't confined to domestic targets, but extended to the Uighur diaspora worldwide.
Lookout determined that installation of various forms of spyware--they found connections among eight strains of malware they investigated--in Android phones used by the targets was the beginning of a comprehensive surveillance effort that eventually extended to collecting “blood samples, voice prints, facial scans and other personal data.” The campaign was of course concentrated in the Western region of Xinjiang where most Uighurs live (the New York Times observes without apparent irony that the measures transformed the region into “a virtual police state”) but it was unrelenting in its pursuit of Uighurs who went abroad, either permanently or temporarily. As many as fourteen other countries may have been affected.
The malware was tied to Uighur-language keyboards, and for the most part consisted of Trojanized versions of otherwise legitimate apps likely to be attractive to Uighur users. Authorities eventually took steps to ensure that the targets of their surveillance kept their infected phones: having a second phone, using an outmoded and thus presumably unifected phone, dumping a phone for no good reason, or not having a phone at all could get you confined to a detention camp.
The campaign has been run by the Chinese threat group variously known as Vixen Panda, APT15, Ke3chang, Mirage, or Playful Dragon. They paid some attention to Tibetans, but their central focus was always on the Uighurs.
Lookout acknowledges the theoretical possibility that the surveillance campaign was actually the work of patriotic hacktivist acting in the spirit of Beijing although not actually under immediate government direction, but, come on, they conclude, that theoretical possibility is really pretty unlikely.
Hong Kong and China's National Security Law.
Beijing's new National Security Law, enacted principally although not exclusively with Hong Kong in mind, has moved residents of the formerly semi-autonomous city to begin doing whatever they can to reduce their online traces before full enforcement is complete, according to the Nikkei Asian Review. While justified in terms of restoring "stability and prosperity" to Hong Kong, the new law has a global reach. Quartz claims that it criminalizes any criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, anywhere, by anyone, Chinese or foreign national.
POLITICO says the European Union has begun considering a coordinated response to the new law. The UK has decided to take a direct and immediate step to help Hong Kongers caught by what London calls a clear violation of the agreement under which Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty twenty-three years ago today. The South China Morning Post has confirmed that more than three-million citizens of Hong Kong will be offered British National (Overseas) passports. The passports would give the holders the right to resettle in the UK for five years, at which point they would receive settled status and be able to apply for citizenship.
A note to our readers.
We'll be observing Independence Day this week, and so won't be publishing on either Friday or Saturday. We'll be back with a new episode of Career Notes this coming Sunday, and as usual we'll return to our normal publication schedule Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the Fourth.