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Oxford University suspends new Huawei donations and research partnerships

By Cecily Liu | | Updated: 2019-01-18 09:22
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A logo of Huawei Technologies. [Photo/IC]

The University of Oxford has suspended new donations and research partnership opportunities with Huawei, according to reports by British media on Thursday.

The university shared its decision in an email sent to its computer science doctoral students. "The decision has been taken in the light of public concerns raised in recent months surrounding UK partnerships with Huawei," the university said.

Huawei said it has not been informed of this decision and awaits the university's explanation.

"As a private, employee-owned company, with a strong track record in research and development, we believe partnership decisions should, like research, be evidence-based," said a Huawei spokesman.

"We have long-standing collaborations with other European universities, working with them to research the technologies of the future," he said.

Huawei has collaboration with four other British universities -- Cambridge, Manchester, Surrey and Imperial College. None of them has raised concerns over Huawei collaboration so far.

Huawei confirmed that it has a policy of investing 10 percent of its annual revenue into research, and it has extensive research partnerships with universities globally.

Oxford said it would continue its existing research contracts where Huawei funding has been received or committed. It currently has two such ongoing projects with Huawei, with a combined funding from Huawei of 692,000 pounds ($898,640).

Huawei has been pushed into the media spotlight in recent months, especially after its executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada while transferring in Vancouver for a flight to Mexico last year. Meng is the chief financial officer at Huawei and daughter of the company's founder, Ren Zhengfei.

Huawei has been effectively banned from the United States since 2012 when a congressional probe raised national security concerns. And Australia blocked Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE from providing 5G equipment in August. New Zealand's government followed suit in November.

Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute and an emeritus fellow of Oxford's St Antony's College, said in an interview with South China Morning Post that Oxford's decision is unlikely to be in response to US government policy regarding Huawei.

"Universities do not want to add companies to any kind of 'donation blacklist'," Tsang said.

"For any major British research university, Oxford included, to decide to suspend a company from being 'an approved gift donor/research sponsor', it must have good strong prima facie evidence that not doing so is wrong," Tsang said.

During the past few weeks, British media have written many stories about BT removing Huawei components from its networks.

Huawei and BT have since stressed that these media reports relating to BT are not an accurate reflection of the real situation, explaining instead that, because BT already uses Huawei equipment extensively for its radio access networks, BT has a policy of not using Huawei equipment for its core networks, in order to achieve diversification of procurement.

When BT acquired EE, another operator, in 2016 and found that EE's core networks contained Huawei equipment, BT started removing Huawei equipment from those EE core networks in its post-merger integration stage, in accordance with this procurement policy.

A BT spokesman said in a statement: "Huawei remains an important equipment provider outside the core network, and a valued innovation partner."

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