Chinese tech giant Huawei is in talks with Armenia after facing controversy in the European Union.
The Chinese IT giant Huawei had signed an agreement with Armenia in December 2017 to implement its “Smart City” technology in Yerevan.
Researchers at Freedom House, a Washington-based think tank, have sounded the alarm.
“A key component of the Huawei Smart City solution “is the ability to identify, monitor and track both people and goods and services,” Adrian Shahbaz, research director for technology and democracy at Freedom House, told Eurasianet. The program requires thousands of security cameras to be installed in public places, which often use facial recognition technology to identify people and license plates. Shahbaz said he was alarmed by “the awesome power that this gives the authorities to control societies.”
According to Eurasianet, Yerevan’s authorities have confirmed discussions are ongoing. Deputy Minister of Transportation, Communications, and Information Technology Gegham Vardanyan said Huawei, the ministry, and the city of Yerevan are engaged in trilateral talks.
A Huawei spokesperson confirmed that “there have been some changes to the technical requirements and we are continuing negotiations. For now we cannot say anything more than that.”
The Huawei project is part of a growing Chinese-Armenia trade relationship.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan regularly mentions China close to the top of his country’s foreign policy priorities. The government’s new five-year strategic program, adopted on February 14, calls for Armenia to “expand and diversify the multi-faceted and broad partnership with China, characterized by friendly relationships.”