Mr Maassen, as a medium established by Chinese dissidents overseas, we start with China: how do you rate the Chinese mobile communications group Huawei, which has been partially involved in building the 5G network? The former BND boss Gerhard Schindler had already warned in 2011 and this year again very clearly said: Huawei and 5G, which means a security risk. Is this consistent with your perception?
Yes, Gerhard Schindler, the former president of the BND, said so. And not only he, but many former colleagues, many of today’s heads of the intelligence services, as far as I know, see it very similarly, see it with great concern that 5G is operated or co-operated by Huawei, and I too, for very good reasons.
What Huawei does is not just business or a company like Siemens or Motorola or other companies, but Huawei is also part of the Chinese state; and the Chinese state also pursues foreign trade policy through companies like Huawei. Or one could say unfriendly: a hegemonic policy. It also tries to make companies strong, which are important from a security and foreign policy point of view of China.
These include: Huawei tries to bring about its technology – in my view, also with rather unfair means – in other countries to gain markets and position. It’s not just about market share. It is not just about profit, what their companies have in mind. It is also about establishing China and the Chinese state more strongly in other countries and making them dependent in part.
If it is said again and again that there is no evidence that Huawei has been intercepted anywhere, or maybe using their own router technology, maybe phone calls or emails have been forwarded, that’s not an argument for me at all. Because the very fact that China could do that, so that Huawei could do that on behalf of the Chinese state, makes us incredibly vulnerable, incredibly dependent, incredibly blackmailable and that all with 5G! When 5G really means everything to us in the future, namely that the entire real-world sector is networked with the technology of the Internet, and that via the 5G interface. So I can only say: In my view, Huawei must not be let into the market.
Some would argue: What do the Americans do so much differently? They also want to make us dependent. They hear us off. What is more of a risk, so to speak, what makes Huawei and the Chinese approach much more dangerous in your view? Or what are the specific risks that are taken?
This question signals, in my view, that the basic problem with China has not been understood. China is not a Western democracy. China is a communist totalitarian state governed by the Communist Party of China. That makes the big, in my view, hardly to be overcome difference to Germany, France, Great Britain and the United States. If I may add, you can personally stand by Mr. Trump as you please, but the US is our partner and is a liberal democracy, no matter who governs there. And they are subject to the local law. Therefore, it is not to be compared with what in any case American companies do in the German market, also British, or what Chinese companies intend.
Keyword NSA wiretapping scandal of the US, also in the media perception of the mainstream media, have clearly the Americans get the buck for their listening activities. Sometimes you get the feeling that there are no other secret services that may intercept and spy on top politicians. You are the expert. How is that really?
Well, the interception of foreign top politicians is, I think, a responsibility/duty of the vast majority of foreign intelligence services or technical services. In other words, the services are given the mandate by the respective government to obtain information about the thinking and subsequent actions of the heads of state or government or leading business representatives from other countries.
Of course, all services keep their cards close to their chest, so you can not see exactly what their profile is, or what job they have. Naturally, the Americans are not the only ones doing that. But one thing makes all the difference: the Americans act according to the law and are our partners. And when I say law and order, I mean that Americans stick to the local right that anyone can read.
In Russia, in China it’s different. These are totalitarian states, which in any case do not run their intelligence services under the rule of law, where the intelligence services are not just intelligence services, that is to say they generate news, but are secret services, some of which also use extra-legal means.
If we are with the Chinese secret service, of course it would also be interesting to hear how the Chinese secret service operates in Germany. There is the constitution protection report, in which also the so-called “five poisons” of the communist party are called. These are democracy activists, Tibetans, Uyghurs, Muslim minority, house Christians or faithful Christians and Falun Gong followers. The issue of Falun Gong will be reflected three times in the 2018 Final Protection Report of 2018. How does the Chinese secret service act in Germany?
So the “five poisons” are still part of the mission profile of the Chinese intelligence services, meaning that the Chinese intelligence services are processing and combating these groups or target individuals or target organizations. Editing means generating messages, fighting means infiltrating, trying to control these organizations in their own sense by using their own sources or, if necessary, using extralegal methods to treat these target organizations or persons.
As far as Germany is concerned, we have found again and again in recent years that in individual cases such attacks against opponents,, that is also against the “five poisons” in Germany were detectable. This has even led to judicial condemnation of persons who were working for the Chinese services in Germany.
Whether and how often this takes place, to what extent that takes place, depends again and again on the situation in China and also on the burden of the local services, according at least to my vantage. It may be that there is a – I say – right wave, where in Europe, Chinese intelligence services are acting against these opponents. It may also be that you are a bit more reserved again.
Can you assess the current situation?
So I think that the “five poisons” in Europe are still being handled with a lot of Chinese services.
The interview was conducted by Florian Godovits