The decision by Oxford to suspend financial ties with Huawei in January was the result of “interference”, company director William Xu has alleged.
Oxford announced a suspension of new partnerships with the Chinese technology giant in January after the Trump administration accused the company of acting as a vehicle for Chinese state espionage and violating US sanctions on Iran.
The decision to suspend donations was taken on the 8th of January, the same day that Chancellor Chris Patten asked the government for advice on University policy towards the firm while giving oral evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
A spokesperson for Oxford University confirmed that the decision to suspend donations was taken on the same day that Patten made the request to the committee, but denied that the former event was influenced by the latter.
Giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in January, Oxford Lord Patten said the University was “really live” to the concerns expressed by US government.
A spokesperson for the University told Cherwell at the time that Lord Patten’s comments were “applied to the higher education sector in general and he does not have specific concerns relating to Oxford.”
Responding to concerns expressed by a Conservative MP that China was seeking to exert influence in British universities, Lord Patten distinguished between the “legitimate” influence operations of organisations like the British Council and those of organisations like MI6.
Lord Patten called for greater guidance by the UK government on collaboration with foreign entities such as Huawei: “I also think that, without in any way suggesting that universities should get agreement from Government about what research to do or what research collaboration to allow, it would be very helpful if there was more agreement within Government about what is acceptable, and if there were a point of contact in Government to which all universities can turn.
“I read the papers and I read about views on Huawei. I am no expert on 5G or these issues, but if the Government have anxieties about a company, it should be possible for a university, if it is being offered research collaboration with that company, to ask somewhere in Government what is happening.”
Speaking to the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily, Huawei chairman William Xu said that the suspension has had little effect, and suggested that the University will seek to resume ties soon: “Although [the universities] think co-operation is win-win with Huawei, they are temporarily suspending co-operation”.
Xu revealed that the company’s invests $300 million annually in foreign universities. “Our collaborations with universities, especially in basic research, not only will not stop, but will increase,” he predicted.
Seeking to allay concerns that Huawei exerts malign influence in universities, Xu told Apple Daily that more than 80% of Huawei’s investment in US universities are donations with no strings attached.
The company director said: “Huawei does not need results and ownership. Huawei does not require students to enter Huawei after graduation. We are completely open-minded.”
Oxford University and Lord Patten have been contacted for comment.