US bars Chinese-owned telecom over 'security risks'

AFP , Thursday 17 Mar 2022

US regulators on Wednesday stripped Chinese state-owned Pacific Networks of its telecommunications license, the latest blow in the simmering confrontation between Beijing and Washington.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
File Photo: The seal of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seen before an FCC meeting to vote on net neutrality in Washington on Dec. 14, 2017. AP

The United States had previously revoked the permits of China Telecom and China Unicom, and the Federal Communications Commission has now given 60 days to Pacific and its subsidiary ComNet to cut service.

"The companies' ownership and control by the Chinese government raise significant national security and law enforcement risks," the FCC said in a statement, adding Beijing could monitor or disrupt US communications.

Beijing criticised the move as "blatantly overstretching the concept of national security."

At a press briefing Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the move was "an abuse of state power and an unreasonable suppression of Chinese companies."

He said China would "continue to take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies."

ComNet did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The revocation of Pacific's operating authority comes as US President Joe Biden has pressed ahead with a strategy of confronting China broadly in line with that of his predecessor Donald Trump, whose approach sent tensions soaring.

Relations have been fraught between the world's two biggest economies on multiple fronts, including trade, human rights, Taiwan and the Covid-19 pandemic.

China Telecom is China's largest fixed-line operator, but it had faced trouble in the United States for years, particularly during Trump's presidency, as his administration repeatedly clashed with Beijing over trade.

The telecoms companies have fought back against the restrictions, with China Unicom saying in a statement in January that the FCC's decision was "without any justifiable grounds and without affording required due process."

Short link: