Huawei will now have even more trouble denying its connections to China's military. Bloomberg reported Wednesday that several of the company's workers have collaborated on research projects with "members of various organs of" the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Those employees were said to be working in unofficial capacities, but this is just another mark against Huawei's claims of total independence.
The possibility that Huawei works closely with China's military, intelligence agencies and other government organizations has led to scrutiny from countries around the world. Regulators in many countries have banned (or are thinking about banning) the company's networking equipment from 5G networks because they fear the Chinese government would use those networks to conduct mass surveillance.
Those fears led the U.S. government to bar federal agencies from purchasing Huawei equipment via the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2019. The U.S. Department of Commerce also cited national security concerns when it added Huawei to the Entity List in May, although ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China have made it seem like there were other motivations behind the ban as well.
Huawei's denied these accusations, saying "Huawei is not aware of its employees publishing research papers in their individual capacity" and that it doesn't have a relationship with the PLA. But that was cast in doubt because the study's authors "identified themselves as Huawei employees," and "the company name was prominently listed at the top of the papers," according to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg said the Huawei researchers and the PLA worked on "at least 10 research endeavors spanning artificial intelligence to radio communications." The report was careful to note that its findings don't indicate a direct relationship between Huawei and the Chinese military. They do make it clear that Huawei does have ties with the PLA, though, which could raise suspicions based on other reports.
That's not a good look for a company that's currently trying to maintain its relationship with U.S. suppliers despite being blacklisted by their federal government. Combine that with the CIA reportedly finding connections between Huawei and Chinese intelligence agencies, and it seems like Huawei's attempts to fight the various U.S. bans in court probably may not go the way the company hopes.