Chinese tech giant Huawei has filed a legal motion in U.S. federal court to have the Trump administration’s efforts to ban its equipment in the United States declared unconstitutional, calling the prohibition “trial by legislature” and an assault on global human rights.
The motion is just one of many legal battles between Huawei Technologies and the Trump administration, which has accused the Chinese company of developing the capability to spy on behalf of China’s ruling Communist Party. The United States is actively trying to persuade other large economies not to let Huawei build 5G networks within their borders.
“Politicians in the U.S. are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company,” Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer, said Wednesday at its corporate headquarters in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
“They are using every tool they have, including legislative, administrative and diplomatic channels. They want to put us out of business. This is not normal,” he said. “The fact is the U.S. government has provided no evidence to show that Huawei is a security threat. There is no gun, no smoke. Only speculation.”
In summer 2018, Congress passed and President Trump signed a defense spending bill that included a section banning U.S. government agencies from buying Huawei equipment, citing concerns that the technology could be used for spying, including on behalf of the Chinese government.
The company filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in March, challenging the constitutionality of Section 889 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Trump administration used to enforce the ban.
Huawei filed a motion for summary judgment late Tuesday Central time after agreeing with the Justice Department that the challenge involved purely legal questions that could be decided in a simple court hearing, Song said in Shenzhen on Wednesday. The hearing is due to be held Sept. 19.
Section 889 violates constitutional rules by specifically calling out Huawei by name, said Glen Nager, a partner at the law firm Jones Day, Huawei’s lead counsel in this lawsuit. This was a breach of constitutional rules in that Congress may not selectively punish or deprive commercial opportunities, he said.
The actions were “specifically enacted as a response to Huawei’s alleged past misdeeds and supposed associations with the Chinese government Communist Party,” Nager said.
Huawei is a national champion that was founded by Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer in the People’s Liberation Army and a member of the Communist Party of China who is often seen with Chinese political leaders. Ren has insisted that Huawei is a private company and does not take instruction from Beijing, but many analysts say that if the party asks for information, the company is powerless to resist.
This month, the U.S. Commerce Department added Huawei to its “Entity List,” an extreme penalty that makes it virtually impossible for it to do business with any U.S. company, a move sometimes called the “death penalty.” The Commerce Department said it reached this decision because Huawei “is engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interest.”
Separately, the Justice Department has issued an arrest warrant for Ren’s daughter, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, on charges related to breaching American sanctions against Iran. Meng is now under house arrest in Canada and fighting extradition to the United States, although Ren this week suggested she would be able to complete a PhD in prison. American doctorates generally take five or six years to complete.
The actions against Huawei come amid a broader trade war between China and the United States that has manifested itself in a tit-for-tat tariff battle. Beijing and Washington are deadlocked in their talks to break the impasse in their trade war, with Trump insisting that China make major structural reforms and Beijing trying to persuade the administration to settle for more Chinese purchases of American goods to narrow the trade gap.
Huawei is fighting back strongly, issuing multiple legal challenges and embarking on a public relations blitz to portray itself as an independent tech company seeking to enhance global networks.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, Song portrayed the measures targeting the company as detrimental to Americans as well others around the world.
“In the U.S., many people in rural areas have been forgotten. They still don’t have access to affordable broadband networks,” he said, adding that Huawei had been working to “ensure that all Americans have equal access” to high-speed Internet.
The actions to constrain Huawei would “directly harm” 1,200 American companies, affecting “tens of thousands” of American jobs, he added.
But more than that, the United States was depriving “more than 3 billion customers who use Huawei products and services around the world,” Song said. “Connectivity is a basic human right, and the U.S. government is putting their rights at risk, especially people in underdeveloped countries where there is a large digital divide.”