The United States has revoked China Telecom’s US license citing concerns pertaining to national security as the reason behind it.
China Telecom is one of the biggest telecom companies in China and has been providing it services in America for almost 20 years now. It has been instructed to wrap up its operations in the US within 60 days.
According to officials, the control of Beijing’s government over the company allows it the opportunity “to access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications”.
They added that this further facilitates them “to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the US”.
China Telecom termed the decision “disappointing”. The company issued a statement, “We plan to pursue all available options while continuing to serve our customers”.
China Telecom is one of the three companies dominating China’s telecoms market. The firm boasts hundreds of millions of customers in 110 countries, providing services ranging from mobile to broadband internet and landline telephone networks.
The decision was announced hours following US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s discussion with Beijing’s Vice Premier Liu He regarding the state of the international economy.
After the recent tensions arising over Taiwan and trade this meeting was seen as a sign of improving relations between the two superpowers.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issued a warning that it might close down China Telecom Americas in April 2020, stating that the firm “is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government”.
It added that the company was “highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests without… independent judicial oversight”.
China Telecom is the latest Chinese firm to be targeted by US officials over national security concerns.
Last year, the FCC designated Huawei and ZTE as threats to communications networks. Consequently, making it more challenging for US firms to purchase equipment from them.
Previously in 2019, the FCC revoked China Mobile’s US license. It is in process of revoking licenses for two other state-backed firms namely China Unicom Americas and Pacific Networks.
For all the cases, US officials cited risk of the Chinese government using the companies to spy on the US or harm national interests as the primary reason.