Researchers studied 25,000 leaked Huawei resumes and found troubling links to the government and spies

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei.

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Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei.
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REUTERS/Aly Song

  • A study analyzing 25,000 Huawei resumes found links between Huawei employees and Chinese military and intelligence agencies.
  • Huawei is currently engaged in a fight with the US over whether it acts as a conduit through which the Chinese government can spy. Huawei denies this.
  • While the study is not conclusive, it is likely to further exacerbate anxiety about the Chinese tech giant.
  • Huawei said it was skeptical of the findings. “We hope that any further research papers will contain less conjecture when drawing their conclusions,” it told the Financial Times.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

New research analyzing the resumes of Huawei employees suggests links between the company and the Chinese military and intelligence agencies could run deeper than previously thought.

Researcher Christopher Balding, of the Fulbright University Vietnam, processed data from a trove of more than 590 million Chinese resumes that leaked online last year to unearth the ties.

With the help of three researchers from British right-wing think-tank, the Henry Jackson Society, he trawled through the data to find Huawei employees’ resumes.

Taking a subset of some 65,000 resumes, the researchers found roughly 25,000 belonging to current or former Huawei employees.

The researchers then searched for key terms, such as the People’s Liberation Army. From this, they narrowed down the list to just over 100 individuals who had experience in national security.

Read more: The Trump administration was roasted for loosening the leash on Huawei and is now scrambling to justify its tactics

The relationship between Huawei and Chinese state agencies is key to the US government’s claim that Huawei poses a national security threat. The US maintains that Huawei provides the Chinese government with technological backdoors through which to spy. Huawei denies this, and CEO Ren Zhengfei said in March he would rather shut down the company than spy for the government.

Balding presented three profiles of resumes he found in a paper released online, although he edited them in order to hide the identities of the individuals described. One profile describes an R&D engineer who simultaneously served as a Ministry of State Security representative.

According to Balding, this engineer “engaged in behavior that describes planting information capture technology or software on Huawei products.” He also worked on “building lawful interception capability into Huawei equipment” on projects both domestic and international.

His study is not exhaustive and, in a blog post responding to criticism of his work, Balding said it was not designed to be an academic paper. In the post, Balding said he didn’t undertake a more comprehensive study because public policy decision makers need information about Huawei now.

“In an ideal world, we would take 6-12 months and turn out an in depth and comprehensive study. The reality is that countries are making crucial decisions right now involving Huawei,” he wrote.

The study comes just over a week after US President Donald Trump announced he was relaxing the government ban on Huawei. Even though Balding’s work doesn’t constitute concrete proof that Huawei is a proxy for the Chinese government, it is likely to rekindle anxieties in the White House and beyond.

A Huawei spokeswoman told Business Insider: “We have not been able to verify any of these so-called “Huawei Employee CVs” Professor Christopher Balding is citing following our preliminary examination. As such, we cannot confirm the veracity of all of the information published online.”

She added that the company vets applicants with military or government backgrounds. “During the hiring process, these candidates are required to provide documentation proving they have ended their relationships with the military or the government,” she said.

“Huawei understands that cyber security concerns are paramount in the digital world. We welcome professional and fact-based reporting on investigations into Huawei’s transparency. We hope that any further research papers will contain less conjecture when drawing their conclusions, and avoid so many speculative statements about what Professor Balding ‘believes,’ ‘infers,’ and, ‘cannot rule out,'” she said.