Melbourne, Sep 5 (ANI): Australia's national security service is investigating Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, whose legitimacy had been debated by intelligence chiefs in the US, Britain and India, for employing technicians in Australia with direct links to the People's Liberation Army.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is investigating claims made by Huawei employees in Sydney and Melbourne, who are understood to have approached the security service with their concerns.
Huawei has been the subject of critical scrutiny by intelligence agencies in the US and Britain about its alleged links with the Chinese military and intelligence apparatus.
The company, which employs more than 100 people in Sydney and about 20 in Melbourne, was founded by former PLA officer Ren Zhengfei, but strongly denies that it does the bidding of the Chinese government or that it has links with the PLA.
It maintains that it is a legitimate telecom company, having been a part of the recent unsuccessful bid by Singtel Optus to build the 15 billion dollars national broadband network, The Australian reported.
The claims made by Huawei employees to ASIO include: That Huawei employs Chinese nationals in Australia who have direct links with the PLA and with the Chinese government; that Huawei has recently sacked several dozen of its Australian-born workforce, replacing them with Chinese nationals brought in from China.
The company says about 30per cent of its workers in Australia are "Chinese expats" and that while there had been recent "adjustments to the allocation and structure of resources," there had been no wholesale sacking of Australian staff.
A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland said: "ASIO has frequent contact with the telecommunications industry in Australia. In that context, ASIO contact with Huawei Telecommunications is unsurprising."
Beijing has vigorously denied claims that it engages in human or cyber espionage in Australia, but in 2004, ASIO set up a new counter-espionage unit to combat the rising incidence of foreign espionage in Australia.
In March, the propaganda chief of the Chinese Communist Party, Li Changchun, visited the company's Australian headquarters in Sydney. (ANI)