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Huawei crackdown

Huawei barring by science publisher sparks China outcry

China Computer Federation suspends partnership with IEEE in the move's wake

NEW YORK -- The U.S.-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world's largest engineering society, has barred Huawei Technologies-affiliated scientists from reviewing papers for its roughly 200 journals.

Employees of Huawei or anyone "interacting with" or "directly paid or otherwise sponsored" by the leading Chinese tech company may not participate in peer reviews or the editing process until an article has been accepted for publication, according to an IEEE internal statement obtained by the Nikkei Asian Review.

Any such person also may not attend nonpublic meetings involving technical information, but can continue to submit papers to IEEE's journals and keep their publication subscriptions, the statement said.

The exclusion signals that ripple effects of the restrictions on Huawei by the associations governing standards for Wi-Fi, SD cards and chips have now reached the academic sphere. The action by the IEEE will stop Huawei employees from viewing technical information contained in the papers submitted for review and blocks the company from having a say on what papers get selected for publication.

On Wednesday, news of an internal IEEE email ordering the replacement of certain Huawei-affiliated editors and reviewers circulated on Chinese social media, sparking an immediate outcry.

To protest the IEEE's move, the China Computer Federation, a Beijing-based academic society and sister association to the IEEE Computer Society, said on Thursday that it will suspend its partnership with IEEE's computer division and advise against its members in China from participating in the activities of the American computer society. 

"The IEEE was once considered an open, international academic organization," the CFF wrote in a public statement. "We regret to see that its Computer Society is restricting member activities on grounds of compliance with local laws."

The CFF statement continued: "This is a violation of the basic open, equal and nonpolitical principles an international academic organization should follow and goes against the values and mission the IEEE has championed in the past."

Zhang Haixia, a professor at China's Peking University, published an open letter Wednesday to IEEE in which he resigned from two editorial boards associated with the group.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce added Huawei and 68 of its affiliates to the Bureau of Industry Security's Entity List on the grounds that the Chinese company had acted contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests. The designation forces Huawei suppliers to apply for licenses to keep selling to the Chinese company. The suppliers should assume the license application will be denied.

Since the blacklisting took effect, tech companies and organizations have been scrambling to keep up with compliance. A number of major chip suppliers including ARM, Infineon and Toshiba have suspended certain business to Huawei, while standards-setting alliances including the Wi-Fi Alliance, JEDEC and the SD Card Association have restricted the Chinese company's participation, Nikkei has reported.

PCI-SIG, which sets standards for peripheral components in computer hardware, became the latest to do so. On Thursday it told Nikkei that it too had "placed Huawei's membership into suspension until the matter is resolved."

IEEE, which is based in New York, has almost half a million members from more than 160 countries, over half of whom are from outside the U.S., according to the organization's website.

In its internal statement, issued on May 22, IEEE said it "must comply with its legal obligations." But its guidelines, which preclude Huawei-related persons from reviewing papers submitted for publication, seem more cautious than necessary.

Kevin Wolf, a former U.S. assistant secretary of commerce and partner at law firm Akin Gump, said that materials submitted to journals or conferences with the intention of getting published are not subject by law to export controls.

In a separate statement, IEEE said its "compliance with U.S. trade restrictions should have minimal impact" on its members around the world.

Nikkei staff writer Coco Liu in Hong Kong contributed to this article.

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