Chinese technology giant Huawei has blasted Malcolm Turnbull for banning it from Australia’s 5G rollout.
The former prime minister on Thursday defended the decision made in 2018 saying the government could not “mitigate the risk” of the technology.
“Turnbull did the bidding of the Americans – wrong,” he told ABC Radio National.
“Australia made the decision to ban high risk vendors, which for practical purposes meant Huawei and ZTE from our 5G network.”
But Huawei Australia chief corporate affairs officer Jeremy Mitchell said Mr Turnbull’s justification for banning it was “technically incorrect” and “awkward”.
In a blog post, Mr Mitchell wrote that the core and radio networks in 5G could be split, and the only people still pushing the “false argument” was US President Donald Trump, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Mr Turnbull.
“This false narrative started back in February 2018 when it was briefed to Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister of Australia when he was visiting Washington,” Mr Mitchell wrote.
“I know this because I met with the Prime Minister’s office a couple of weeks after.”
He said Huawei was and continued to be a symbol of China’s advancement, and the ban hit a raw nerve across the nation.
“Although Australia might want to move on from the 5G ban, the Chinese people have not,” Mr Mitchell wrote.
“The Huawei ban continues to cause such serious problems for Australia is because it was a slap in the face to the Chinese people, not the Chinese Government, but Canberra simply doesn’t understand this.”
Tensions between Australia and its largest trading partner have continued to flare over the past month with China launching an investigation into Australian wine imports, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing new laws to tear up agreements between states and foreign governments.
On Tuesday, two Australian journalists reporting in Beijing arrived back in the country after being forced to flee with diplomatic assistance.
Mr Turnbull said Beijing’s investigation was “tit for tat” for Australia raiding four Chinese journalists earlier this year.
But China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Wednesday said the two matters were of a “different nature”.
He did, however, take aim at Australian authorities and warned that they should immediately stop the “harassing and oppressing Chinese nationals” in Australia under any pretext.
“The behaviour of the Australian government seriously disrupts the normal reporting activities of Chinese media in Australia, grossly violates their legitimate rights and interests, and causes serious damage to the physical and mental health of the journalists and their families,” Mr Zhao said.