Sens. Cruz, Hawley to Introduce Legislation Banning U.S. Officials from Using Tencent, Huawei, ZTE, Other Chinese Communist Party-Backed Platforms
HOUSTON, Texas - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) today announced their intention to introduce the "Countering Chinese Attempts at Snooping" or CCAS Act, legislation to prevent Chinese surveillance and espionage by prohibiting U.S. federal employees from conducting official business over platforms run by Tencent, Huawei, ZTE and other companies the U.S. Department of State determines are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Additionally, in light of the United Nations' (UN) recent consideration and reported reversal of a partnership with Tencent, the CCAS Act also ensures U.S. taxpayer dollars won't be used to subsidize or fund U.N. contracts with any such companies. The legislation is part of Sen. Cruz's efforts to combat Chinese espionage throughout the U.S., including at American research installations and universities and in the Five Eyes alliance.
Upon announcing the legislation, as reported by Fox News, Sen. Cruz said:
"Companies like Tencent and Huawei are espionage operations for the Chinese Communist party, masquerading as telecom companies for the 21st century. Prohibiting the use of these platforms and stopping taxpayers dollars from being used to capitalize Chinese espionage infrastructure are common sense measures to protect American national security. These are just some of the measures we will have to take as the United States reevaluates its relationship with China and the CCP."
Sen. Hawley added:
"The United Nations' decision to partner with Tencent, a glorified surveillance arm of the Chinese Communist Party, is stupid and dangerous. Chinese technology companies like Tencent and Huawei actively conspire with the CCP to conduct international surveillance and present an ongoing threat to the United States and our allies. American taxpayer money should not fund UN contracts that benefit the Chinese Communist Party."
There is a broad consensus that the CCP uses Tencent and similar companies for espionage on foreign persons, including by simply watching traffic as it comes through Chinese-hosted or -facilitated servers. In September 2019, State Department Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Chris Ford said:
"Firms such as Huawei, Tencent, ZTE, Alibaba, and Baidu have no meaningful ability to tell the Chinese Communist Party ‘no' if officials decide to ask for their assistance - e.g., in the form of access to foreign technologies, access to foreign networks, useful information about foreign commercial counterparties, insight into patterns of foreign commerce, or specific information about the profiles, activity, or locations of foreign users of Chinese-hosted or -facilitated social media, computer or smartphone applications, or telecommunications. Such aid may not necessarily occur routinely, but it certainly can occur - and presumably will - whenever the Party considers this useful and cares to demand it."
The CCAS Act requires the Secretary of State to create a list of Chinese technology companies that enable the CCP to conduct espionage based on a list of criteria, including enabling surveillance and granting access to networks. Once the list is created, the legislation prohibits U.S. officials from using technology provided by those companies. Additionally, the CCAS Act requires offsets in U.S. payments to the UN equal to the value of the contracts the UN signs with those companies.
Read the full text of the CCAS Act here.