'Security threat' Huawei wants easy visas

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 09:21 18/11/2012

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New Zealand is considering providing special visa processing for employees of controversial Chinese telecommunications company Huawei.

It follows a special deal between Immigration NZ and China Southern Airlines to fast- track visitor visas for its gold and silver frequent flyer cardholders flying out of Guangzhou.

As from this week the cardholders will be able to skip normal boarding checks in a deal opposition parties claim opens New Zealand's borders to international organised crime syndicates.

It can now be revealed Huawei wants "an alternative way" for some its employees to meet requirements to obtain visitor visas.

Immigration NZ head Steve Stuart said Huawei Technologies had applied to have requirements to prove sufficient funds and employment for its employees waived.

"The proposal is still being discussed by Immigration NZ and this consideration is at a very early stage."

Labour's immigration spokeswoman Darien Fenton says the proposal raises serious questions about "behind-the-scene deals" being done by Immigration NZ.

"Last week we saw the deal with China Southern Airlines and questions about SkyCity casino being involved, and now Huawei." She also questions why Huawei staff would need special processing.

"There's many people around the world who want to come and visit New Zealand who have to go through the proper process and we should not be making special deals with anybody."

The Government's willingness to do business with Huawei has been in the spotlight after Australia refused to offer the company a national broadband network contract in March.

The United States intelligence committee last month warned against doing business with Huawei, saying the company may pose a security threat. The committee said it had received credible allegations Huawei may be guilty of bribery and corruption, discriminatory behaviour and copyright infringement and recommended US network providers find other suppliers for their projects.

In New Zealand Huawei provides equipment to two of the Government's three local fibre providers that are rolling out its $1.5 billion broadband network. It also provides equipment to mobile phone company Two Degrees, which in May became one of three companies awarded the Government's lucrative public sector-wide mobile voice and data services procurement contract.

Labour has raised concerns that Huawei's "dual use" technology could enable it to get hold of information which could be transmitted.

A Huawei spokesman said the immigration application was made to assist Chinese tourists travelling with its subsidiary company Smartcom, which announced its first tour group to New Zealand in October. "This group consisted of Huawei employees and their families, however Smartcom aims to extend the promotion beyond Huawei."

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy - under fire after being forced to reveal the deal with China Southern Airlines after documents were leaked - said Huawei's request for special visa processing would be treated "very cautiously".

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"Nothing will be agreed to which would compromise our rigorous border security. It would be unusual for a private company, rather than an airline, to be granted an arrangement like this."

- Sunday Star Times

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