Poland charged a Huawei executive and a former top Polish spy with espionage Thursday.
The arrest of Stanislaw Wang (also known as Wang Weijing) is another major blow to the Chinese tech company, after Canada last month detained one of its top executives on the back of a U.S. arrest warrant.
Wang is currently a sales director for Huawei in Poland and previously worked as the PR director. He graduated from one of China’s top intelligence schools in 2004 and worked as a diplomat in the Chinese Consulate in Poland before joining Huawei in 2011, according to his Linkedin profile.
Officers from Poland’s counterintelligence agency, known as the ABW, raided Huawei’s offices Tuesday as well as Wang’s home, seizing documents and electronic equipment. The two men were detained during the raids and were formally charged Thursday night.
Wang was arrested alongside a former member of Poland’s counterintelligence agency, identified only as Piotr D. The former spy recently worked for telecoms company Orange. His office was also raided Tuesday.
While working for the ABW, Piotr D had access to sensitive information including internal government communication systems for the secret transmission of information to top officials, according to local media reports.
Both men, who have already pleaded not guilty, face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.
“Huawei is aware of the situation, and we are looking into it,” a spokesman for the company told the Wall Street Journal.
Poland’s Foreign Ministry issued a warning just before Christmas that it was concerned about Chinese spying efforts.
“[The arrest] does not come up as a complete surprise for those observing Polish government's change of attitude towards China in the last couple of months,” Alicia Bachulska, a China analyst at The War Studies University of Warsaw, told VICE News. “[There has been] a general shift in Poland’s attitudes towards cooperation with China. It does not mean that Warsaw will completely stop its cooperation with Beijing but it will definitely be more cautious about it.”
After news of the arrest broke, the editor of the Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper, tweeted that “Polish national security department flatters itself” and asked, “Is it something to be ashamed of if one country doesn't arrest a Chinese spy?”
The timing of the arrest is not good for Huawei, which is looking to Europe as one of the main markets to roll out its next-generation 5G technology.
“This comes at the worst time for Huawei as 5G is being launched in Europe,” Francisco Jeronimo, a smartphone researcher at IDC, tweeted. “It will impact Huawei's relationship with governments, mobile operators and even consumers and businesses in Europe.”
Wang’s arrest comes a month after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou over suspicions she helped Huawei avoid trade sanctions.
China responded by arresting two Canadian nationals on suspicion of “activities that endangered China's national security.”
More broadly, U.S. intelligence officials have labeled Huawei a national security risk listing its close relationship with the government as a reason for blocking Huawei’s telecommunications systems being sold in the U.S.
The U.S. is also trying to convince its allies to ditch Huawei equipment. This arrest is likely to make that argument easier.
Cover image: The Huawei logo stands on a Huawei office building in Dongguan in Chinas southern Guangdong province on December 18, 2018. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)