Huawei employees stationed in Uganda and Zambia have helped the Ugandan and Zambian governments spy on their political opponents, which has led to the opponents’ arrests in both countries, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In Kampala, Uganda, Huawei employees reportedly helped Uganda’s cyber-surveillance unit break into the WhatsApp group belonging to Bobi Wine, a political opponent to the current Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. The Huawei employees used spyware made by an Israeli company to break into the WhatsApp group, which led to Wine’s arrest, as well as the arrest of dozens of his supporters.
In Zambia, Huawei technicians reportedly helped the government access the phones and Facebook pages belonging to bloggers who oppose Zambian president Edgar Lungu’s regime. This allowed the Zambian cyber-surveillance unit to locate the bloggers’ locations, which led to their arrest.
In both instances in Uganda and Zambia, the Journal’s report that Huawei helped those governments to spy on their political opponents were corroborated by senior security officials.
Read more: Trump administration reportedly delays deciding whether to let US companies resume selling to HuaweiIt’s also said that the Huawei employees used Huawei and other technology to aid the Ugandan and Zambian governments spy and arrest their political opponents.
There was no evidence that the Huawei employees who helped the Ugandan and Zambian government allegedly spy on their opponents acted on behalf of Huawei or the Chinese government, nor did Huawei or China know about the Huawei employees’ actions, according to the Journal. There was nothing exclusive or specific about the Huawei technology that was used, either, suggesting that any similar technology from any company could have been used to the same effect.
Business Insider has requested comment from Huawei, as well as the Ugandan and Zambian government, but did not hear back before publishing. Huawei responded to the Journal’s report by outright denying that the company or its employees were involved.
Still, the report comes at an inopportune time for Huawei, which faces scrutiny from the US government over fears that Huawei telecoms technology could be used by the Chinese government to spy on the US.
In 2018, the White House banned federal agencies and employees from using telecoms equipment from Huawei, to which Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei responded that the company has never been used to spy on behalf of the Chinese government, nor would it comply to a request to do.