WARSAW, Poland — Poland has arrested a director at the Chinese tech giant Huawei and one of its own former cybersecurity experts and charged them with spying for China, authorities said Friday.
The development comes as the U.S. is exerting pressure on its allies not to use Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications network equipment, over data security concerns.
The two men — one a Chinese citizen who was a former envoy in Poland before moving over to a senior position at Huawei and the other a Pole who held several top government cybersecurity positions — were arrested Tuesday, according to Poland’s Internal Security Agency.
Polish security agents searched the Warsaw offices of Huawei and Orange, Poland’s leading communications provider, where the former Polish security expert recently worked, seizing documents and electronic data. The homes of both men, also in Warsaw, were also searched, according to agency spokesman Stanislaw Zaryn.
It’s the latest setback for Huawei in Europe, where the company has ambitious plans to roll out next-gen 5G mobile networks, which it is a leader in developing. The arrest is a fresh sign that a U.S. dispute with China over its ban on the company is spilling over to Europe, Huawei’s biggest foreign market.
Some European governments and telecom companies are following the U.S. lead in questioning whether using Huawei for vital infrastructure for mobile networks could leave them exposed to snooping by the Chinese government.
Maciej Wasik, deputy head of Poland’s Special Services agency, said the operation that resulted in the arrests of the two suspects had been underway for a long time. He said “both carried out espionage activities against Poland.”
Zaryn said prosecutors have charged the two men with espionage, but agents are still collecting evidence and interview witnesses. Further indictments are expected, he said.
He said no further details would be released about the case because it is classified and the investigation is ongoing.
Polish state television TVP reported that the men have proclaimed their innocence, but Zaryn said he could not confirm that. If convicted, they could face up to 10 years in prison each.
TVP identified the arrested Chinese man as Weijing W., saying he was a director in Poland at Huawei. It said he also went by the Polish first name of Stanislaw.
A LinkedIn profile for a man named Stanislaw Wang appears to match details of the man described by Polish television.
State TV ID’d the Polish man as Piotr D., and said he was a high-ranking employee at the Internal Security Agency, serving as deputy director in the department of information security until 2011.
Polish state news agency PAP said the man also held top cybersecurity positions at the Interior Ministry and the Office of Electronic Communications.