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Huawei builds mini Europe in China amid global security storm

File photo: Huawei logo at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China. Photograph:( Reuters )

Agencia EFE Shenzhen/Dongguan Mar 31, 2019, 06.24 PM (IST)

Chinese technology giant Huawei at the eye of a global security storm has built a new campus in China that looks like a cluster of European cities.

The campus with an old European feel is connected through a futuristic tram service that takes thousands of Huawei employees to their destinations in the faux-Europe dotted by 12 buildings of architectural wonder.

The company has opted for the ostentatious campus in Dongguan (south) for its research and development.

There are replicas of Italian towers, artificial lakes and palaces. The campus houses buildings and squares that look like the ones of medieval Europe, reflecting Huawei's infinite global ambitions despite a tough year marked by suspicions on security flaws in its devices and the arrest of its CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada.

But that did not stop the company from announcing on Friday that its net profit in 2018 swelled by 25.1 and it invested 101.5 billion yuan in its research and development.

The feel inside the campus gets you surreal. Employees, visitors and clients riding the train get down at stops named after cities like Paris, Verona, Freiburg and Granada.

The campus is spread over an area of 1.4 million square meters and is situated on the banks of lake Songshan in Dongguan.

It has been designed to create an idyllic work environment to motivate its employees - to host an estimated 25,000 - and where long-term plans of the company could be developed.

According to sources close to Huawei, these places are undergoing heavy investment in innovation in areas of Virtual Reality, in smart cities - with hyper-vigilance and facial recognition - and the Internet of Things.

Before reaching the campus, Joe Kelly, head of international communication, told a group of international journalists that all these new strategies and values of the company inspire self-criticism and cooperation among the employees.

However, the talk soon deviated to the issues the company is facing - the security conditions of 5G mobile connectivity.

Guo Ping, rotating chairman of the company, said on Friday that none of its products has technological back doors or nor does it have the capability to access a device without the knowledge of the user.

The clarification comes in the middle of allegations that Huawei was part of Beijing's intelligence system that led the European Commission to urge countries to analyze and be alert of threats that the tech giant poses to the development of 5G data connectivity.

At the moment, Huawei devices are banned in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

But a possible ban in other countries would be a bad news for the company, which has its biggest market in Europe.

Kelly said the company understands cyber-security concerns of the European regulators and their need to analyze risks.

"We take (cyber-security) more seriously than anyone else. We don't touch data. We provide infrastructure to the operators. We don't even have access to that data," Kelly said.

Director Wang Jin echoed, saying Huawei devices are more secure than other brands as they are subjected to greater scrutiny.

Wang said the government had never asked the company to spy for them or install back doors in Huawei's products.

He said it was a campaign to tarnish Huawei's image.

The company's current concerns are mainly focused on security and data protection of these 5G network devices - a major issue on which it will base the development of its new infrastructure that will be a deciding factor for the future of the firm.

Story highlights

The campus with an old European feel is connected through a futuristic tram service that takes thousands of Huawei employees to their destinations in the faux-Europe dotted by 12 buildings of architectural wonder.