What just happened? Because of the long-running allegations over its ties to the Chinese government, news about Huawei is often as political as it is technological. That’s certainly the case in this instance: the UK's defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, has been fired over the leaking of a decision related to the country’s use of Huawei tech in its 5G networks.
Last week, the UK’s National Security Council, which is chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May, agreed to give Huawei limited access to help build parts of its noncore 5G infrastructure. The decision was revealed to the Daily Telegraph, prompting a government inquiry into who was behind the leak.
During a meeting with Williamson this week, May told the defense secretary that she had “compelling evidence” he was the person who fed the information to the publication. In a letter confirming his dismissal, the PM wrote: “No other, credible versions of events to explain this leak has been identified.”
Williamson is adamant he was not the person behind the leak. According to a Sky News reporter, he swore on his children’s lives that he was innocent. Williamson had been offered the chance to resign but refused as he believed doing so would make him look guilty.
Spoken to Gavin Williamson. He swore on his children’s life to me that he didn’t leak the Huawei news and neither did his staff. Said he believes this is the settling of a vendetta between him and Mark Sedwill— Alistair Bunkall (@AliBunkallSKY) May 1, 2019
"I appreciate you offering me the option to resign, but to resign would have been to accept that I, my civil servants, my military advisers or my staff were responsible: this was not the case," Williamson wrote in a letter to May.
Things could get even worse for Williamson, with some politicians, including the foreign secretary, calling for police to launch a criminal investigation into whether he broke the official secrets act.
While no formal confirmation of Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G networks has been announced, news of the meeting’s decision has had far-reaching repercussions. The US government has strongly hinted that if its ally does give Huawei the green light, America will cut intelligence ties with the country—the same warning it issued to Germany last year.
All the negative publicity doesn't seem to be damaging Huawei's sales. The Chinese firm has once again surpassed Apple as the world's second-largest smartphone seller.