In 2017 Sepura, which produces digital mobile radio products, was bought by Chinese company Hytera, in which Beijing government has 2 percent stake. Hytera has been banned by the United States over concerns that its equipment may be used for surveillance.
The United Kingdom continues to use equipment produced by the Sepura company, including radios used by police officers, in particular, during protection of members of the royal family, the British media have reported. Systems and applications are used by British ambulance and fire services in airports, despite the fact that Sepura’s owner, Hytera, was blacklisted by the White House, which claims that its equipment may be used by Chinese authorities for espionage and surveillance, a claim which Hytera and Beijing deny.
Following the media reports, officials and experts urged the government of UK PM Boris Johnson to conduct a review of Sepura and its devices.
“If there is any question whatsoever that equipment provided to our police and Armed Forces would compromise their security in any way, this demands urgent investigation and necessary action. Our American allies are unlikely to have banned this firm without good cause”, said Matthew Henderson, Asia studies director at the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think-tank.
UK Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcom Rifkind went further, saying that Downing Street must review all Chinese companies that could affect the country’s national security.
“China has changed a lot in the last few months, so we need to have fresh look. The government should treat it as a serious responsibility. They have to look at a particular company, revisit it and see whether you come to the same judgment as last time”, said Rifkind.
In 2017, Sepura won a $94 million contract to supply 32,000 radios for the London Metropolitan police. The deal was reviewed by government agencies due to the company’s ownership and was given a green light by UK Business Secretary Greg Clark, with Hytera agreeing to random checks from the UK Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the country’s intelligence agency GCHQ.
Hytera is among hi-tech companies, including Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Dahua, Hikvision, that the Trump administration has blocked from selling their products to government agencies, like the FBI. Hytera told the Mail on Sunday, however, that it has sold its kits to US federal agencies via its US division, PowerTrunk, because of a deal the latter signed with the Department of Homeland Security two years ago.
The development comes as this week the United Kingdom banned Chinese company Huawei from developing the UK 5G network. The decision followed months of deliberations and the UK government initially allowing the telecom giant to participate. Following months of pressure from the Trump administration, which warned Downing Street that doing business with Huawei may cost Britain its trade agreement with Washington, something London needs following Brexit, the government of Boris Johnson announced that it would not buy the Chinese company’s equipment for its 5G network.