On Nov 28, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) declined an application by Spark to use 5G equipment from the Chinese-state associated telecommunications company Huawei.
It is unclear whether the GCSB has identified Huawei equipment as a threat to national security or is simply being cautious in this regard.
Director general of the GCSB, Andrew Hampton, told Spark that Huawei’s 5G equipment poses “significant national security risks.”
In response, Chinese officials said that the move would “only hurt [New Zealand’s] industry and consumers” and called for a “level playing field for Chinese companies”.
Some suggest that the GCSB’s ban on Huawei represents New Zealand’s stance in its relations with China.
However Foreign Affairs minister Winston Peters later clarified, “The Government has not banned Huawei as the headlines are saying, rather there is a process that has begun, it’s not complete yet, and I cannot say much more than that.”
He added, “I’m going to do my best to correct the media’s erroneous implication to the Chinese.”
Chinese communications platform accused of censoring comments
Some users on the Chinese platform SkyKiwi.com have filed complaints that keywords that indicated support for the Huawei ban were identified as “illegal” on the website.
Fergus Ryan, an analyst at ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre, received an error message upon submitting a comment to express his support for the Huawei ban.
According to the SCMP, only when the comment “Chinese-made equipment is a threat” was rewritten, did it go through.
Ryan told the SCMP, “Skykiwi needs to explain why that message was not allowed on their website. It would be extremely disturbing if this was an example of Beijing-style censorship extending beyond China’s borders and into that of a liberal democracy like New Zealand.”
In any case, resisting interference from a foreign Chinese government should not be mistaken as racist gesture to the local Chinese community in New Zealand.