Obchod Huawei v Pekingu dne 24. března 2014. (MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images)
Obchod Huawei v Pekingu dne 24. března 2014. (MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images)
The Chinese company Huawei is trying to defend itself against a wave of criticism in Europe and has submitted a “legal opinion”. This document from May 2018 was actually prepared by a Chinese Law Firm and co-authored by a CCP member, Chen Jihong.

The director of Huawei Czech Republic, where the company faces increased scrutiny after a public warning by the country’s cyber intelligence authority NÚKIB in December 2018, presented the “legal opinion” on Feb. 7 in a TV interview. It was similarly used in other countries, for example in a letter addressed to the British Parliament of Jan. 29 or earlier in the so-called “Risk Management for 5G Networks” in June 2018 in Australia.

“Its newest distribution (in Europe) is portrayed as being endorsed by a review from Clifford Chance, a law firm which is a member of the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK. But the Clifford Chance review itself contains an explicit disclaimer that the material “should not be construed as constituting a legal opinion on the application of the law of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) wrote Sinopsis*, a project of the Institute of East Asian Studies at Charles University in Prague on Feb. 8.

Sinopsis published a series of articles about “Huawei’s battle for Central Europe” and analyzed the “legal opinion” that disputes the warning that PRC citizens are legally bound to assist in intelligence operations, which Huawei submitted in its defense, after NÚKIB published the warning.

“It looks like Huawei has deployed a new tactic in the Czech Republiců,” wrote Sinopsis. First the Chinese Ambassador in Prague, Zhang Jianmin, arranged a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Dec. 24, 2018. Then Huawei threatened to take NÚKIB to court and initiate international arbitration. Now Huawei has submitted the “legal opinion”.

“Threats or even the actual implementation of legal action is a standard part of the Chinese concept of hybrid war, the so-called triple fight (sanzhong zhanfa), which is the simultaneous waging of legal, psychological and media war,” wrote Ondřej Klimeš, Sinologist from the Czech Academy of Sciences to the Epoch Times on Feb. 12 in reaction to Huawei’s efforts to intimidate NÚKIB.

Origin of the document

“It comes in the form of a legal document issued in the name of the British law firm Clifford Chance (not available online; in fact, marked as “confidential”, despite its rather wide distribution),” wrote Sinopsis on February 8. “Huawei has been touting this document as the final proof of its innocence.”

“The document is in fact a recycled eight-month old piece of legal advice written by two Chinese lawyers. Although, as seen below, this material has already received some public discussion, its newest distribution is portrayed as being endorsed by a review from Clifford Chance, a law firm which is a member of the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK,” wrote Sinopsis.

The “legal assurance” document from May 2018, as Sinopsis found out, was actually prepared by Zhong Lun Law Firm, a well-known legal practice whose founding and managing partner is Deputy Minister of the Organization Department of the District Committee Zhang Xuebing. The “legal assurance” for Huawei was co-authored by a CCP member, Chen Jihong.

The Clifford Chance review itself, seen by Sinopsis, contains an explicit disclaimer that the material “should not be construed as constituting a legal opinion on the application of PRC law”.


PHOTO: Member of the Czech Communist Party MP Vojtěch Filip (on the screen in the center) speaks on Czech television. His speech provoked a lot of commentary on social networks, and the Czech TV moderator was even unable to control herself and not laugh during the live broadcast. (Screenshot Czech Television)
PHOTO: Member of the Czech Communist Party MP Vojtěch Filip (on the screen in the center) speaks on Czech television. His speech provoked a lot of commentary on social networks, and the Czech TV moderator was even unable to control herself and not laugh during the live broadcast. (Screenshot Czech Television)


The Communist Party in Central Europe comes to help

Another event that raised the attention of the Czech public and politicians in connection with Huawei at the beginning of January 2019 was the official work trip of a member of the Czech Communist Party, MP Vojtěch Filip, to China.

Czech media reported that Filip met Guo Yezhou, Deputy Director of the the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (In a report of the Czech secret intelligence service BIS it is called a "specific party intelligence") in China on Jan. 15. He also met with the Sichuan Provincial Secretary and Huawei's representatives.

Sinopsis has stated that after his arrival back to the Czech Republic, Vojtěch Filip made appearances on public television and radio, where he “denied the existence of Article 7 of the Chinese law of the State Security Act (the Chinese version of Article 7 can be found here)”. Article 7 of the 2017 PRC national intelligence-gathering activities law states that all Chinese citizens and organisations are obliged to cooperate upon request with PRC intelligence operations. Filip also interpreted the whole warning about a security threat as a “competitive struggle between technology companies” and said, that Huawei’s hardware is safe.

The Czech TV moderator was even unable to control herself and not laugh during the live broadcast of Filip's speech on television. Some Czech media and audiences considered Filip’s speech untrustworthy and in fact muddled.

"Vojtech Filip, who went to China for instructions, will say that this is a competitive fight. We should primarily look out for the interests of the Czech Republic," said Czech MP Jan Lipavský, who spoke on the same TV broadcast as Filip.

Lipavsky also recalled that Poland had detained one of the directors of the Huawei branch in Poland because of suspicion of espionage and that it was not the only case. "These are the cases, the warning comes from our allies, that is, Australia, America - countries with which we have close relationships," emphasized Lipavský.

Some Czech state agencies have begun to ban products and services from Huawei and ZTE since NÚKIB issued its warning, stated the Czech daily Právo on Feb. 11.


NOTE: Sinopsis is a joint project between the Institute of East Asian Studies at Charles University in Prague and the not-for-profit association AcaMedia. It aims to present a regular overview of developments in China from the perspectives of Czech, Chinese, and international observers.

The Sinopsis series of articles about Huawei in Central-Eastern Europe:

Arresting Huawei’s march in Warsaw

Huawei’s Christmas battle for Central Europe,

A new front opens in Huawei’s battle for Central Europe

The importance of Friendly Contacts: the New Comintern to Huawei’s rescue

A New Comintern for the New Era: the CCP International Department from Bucharest to Reykjavík