The German government is considering blocking Chinese tech giant Huawei from its next-generation mobile phone network, striking yet another blow to the embattled company under facing accusations of espionage on behalf of China.
German media reports say Huawei could be blocked from participating on the grounds that the company doesn’t qualify the security requirements for Germany’s 5G network.
But the exclusion based on security standards appears to be an elaborate plot by Chancellor Angela Merkel to effectively ban Huawei from the country without causing a diplomatic rift with the Chinese government, German newspaper Handelsblatt first reported.
The U.S. and Europe pushed back against Huawei’s presence in their markets, fearing the company’s technology could endanger national security as it could be used to spy on Western citizens.
The U.K. and Canada recently raised questions about Huawei, while Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. banned the firm from their countries.
On Thursday, China warned the Canadian government that there will be “repercussions” if Huawei gets banned from its 5G network.
But the company denied its technology could be used for spying, saying in a statement that it sees “no rational reason why it should be excluded from building 5G infrastructure in Germany, or indeed in any country in the world,” according to the BBC.
This follows the arrests of a Chinese Huawei manager and a Polish former intelligence officer in Poland, who were charged with espionage against the country on behest of China.
The Polish man, employed at Orange, worked together with Huawei to roll out next-generation 5G mobile networks in Poland, according to the BBC.
Last month, a top Huawei official was arrested amid the U.S. dispute with China over a ban on Huawei devices and accusations that the company used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei and the daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada last month at the request of the U.S. government. She was granted bail but remains in Vancouver under 24-hour surveillance. The U.S. must submit an extradition hearing by the end of January.
The Chinese government retaliated against the arrest by detaining Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, about a month ago, claiming he’s a national security risk. He remains in China’s custody.
Another Canadian man was also sentenced to death for drug smuggling, in what many perceive as political ruling based on the worsening relationship between the Canadian and Chinese governments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.