SYDNEY (Reuters) - A former Australian lawmaker retired from the board of the local arm of China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd on Friday, potentially weakening the firm’s efforts to withstand government moves to restrict its market access on security grounds.
John Brumby, a former premier of the state of Victoria, will leave the world’s biggest maker or telecommunications equipment on March 1 after eight years as a director of it’s Australian subsidiary.
Brumby’s exit reduces Huawei’s influence in Canberra at a time when Western nations increase scrutiny of Chinese telcoms equipment makers over concern that China’s government could use their products for espionage. Huawei says the concern is unfounded.
Brumby was a key figure in Huawei’s unsuccessful efforts to prevent Australia’s conservative government banning the company from participating in the country’s fifth-generation (5G) communications network last year.
“The timing of my retirement from the board is completely unrelated to any recent commentary regarding China and Huawei,” Brumby said in an emailed statement.
“I remain a strong supporter of closer ties between Australia and China, particularly in the fields of investment, trade, education and R&D.”
Huawei has been under siege since the arrest of its chief financial officer in Canada in December at the behest of the United States. The U.S. Justice Department has accused Huawei of bank fraud and conspiring to steal trade secrets. Huawei denies wrongdoing.
Though barred from Australia’s 5G network, Huawei has maintained its presence in the region and has secured a series of contracts in the face of Australian objection.
“Brumby, as a former premier, carries weight as a lobbyist. Losing someone of the stature will hurt Huawei’s efforts to prosecute its case and to be allowed to expand in the region,” said Haydon Manning, professor of politics at Flinders University in South Australia.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Christopher Cushing