Concerns raised over 5G and Chinese technology in Sri Lanka

Concerns have been raised over the use of Chinese technology in Sri Lanka.

The Sunday Morning newspaper reported that concerns over Huawei and 5G had been raised with former Cabinet Minister of Telecommunications, Foreign Employment, and Sports Harin Fernando, when he was in office, by some diplomats based in Sri Lanka.

Fernando told the newspaper that some western diplomats had raised concerns with him, particularly with relation to cybersecurity. However, he noted that Sri Lanka depended a lot on Chinese technology, so it could not simply reject it.

The former Minister, however, noted that after careful analysis, it was found that most of the concerns related to Sri Lanka were not concrete enough to act upon.

The Council of the European Union had recently determined that while 5G technology was important for the European Union (EU), the profound changes that 5G technologies will bring to the networks, devices, and applications, and the increased security concerns related to the integrity and availability of 5G networks, in addition to confidentiality and privacy, make it necessary for the EU and member states to pay particular attention to promoting the cybersecurity of these networks and all services dependent on electronic communications.

Huawei also dismissed concerns raised over possible health risks from 5G technology.

There are concerns that the infrastructure used for 5G would result in radiofrequency radiation that can damage DNA and lead to cancer, cause oxidative damage that can cause premature aging, disrupt cell metabolism, and potentially lead to other diseases through the generation of stress proteins.

However, Huawei Sri Lanka dismissed the concerns saying they are baseless and not scientifically proven.

Huawei also dismissed claims that the company was managed by the Chinese Government and could be used by China to spy on Sri Lankans.

“We are a private company and not managed by the Chinese Government. We are also a global company and not a Chinese company as such,” Huawei Sri Lanka Director – Public Relations Christopher Li told The Sunday Morning.

Li also noted that Huawei had been in Sri Lanka for the past 20 years and had enjoyed the fullest support of successive local governments.

Chatham House, a leading global policy institute, stated that there were credible allegations that Huawei had benefitted from stolen intellectual property and that it could not thrive without a close relationship with the Chinese State.

However, Huawei hotly denied the allegations that users were at risk of its technology being used for state espionage and said it would resist any order to share information with the Chinese Government.

“Cybersecurity is a priority at Huawei. Our operating system source code is transparent and open to select stakeholders. We also ensure the privacy of the user is protected,” Li said.

But Chatham House said there were questions over whether it could really resist China’s stringent domestic legislation which compels companies to share data with the Government. And given China’s track record of using cyberattacks to conduct intellectual property theft, there may be added risks of embedding a Chinese provider into critical communications infrastructure.