SHENZHEN, China - Fighting to maintain its access to major markets for next-generation communications, Chinese tech giant Huawei is challenging the constitutionality of a 2018 U.S. law that bars it from selling telecoms equipment to U.S. government agencies and contractors.
In a motion filed late Tuesday in eastern Texas federal court, Huawei argues for summary judgment in the case it filed in March against the U.S. government. It says the law violates a constitutional prohibition against "trial by legislature" of individual entities.
Congress thus acted unconstitutionally when it "adjudicated Huawei's guilt and blacklisted it," the motion argues.
The motion comes as the U.S. and China are embroiled in a broader trade war in which both sides have imposed billions of dollars of punitive tariffs against each other's products. Chinese state media suggested Wednesday that the country's rich supply of rare earths - key elements for high-tech manufacturing - could be used as leverage against the U.S. in the dispute.
Huawei is the biggest global maker of network equipment and enjoys a lead in 5G, or fifth-generation, technology. It also is the No. 2 maker of smartphones. The Trump administration says the company can be legally compelled to spy on behalf of the Chinese government and is thus a threat to international cybersecurity.
"This decision threatens to harm our customers in over 170 countries, including more than 3 billion customers who use Huawei products and services around the world," Huawei's chief legal officer, Song Liuping, said at a news briefing Wednesday.
Huawei, whose U.S. headquarters is in Plano, Texas, said in Tuesday's motion that the U.S. national defense law that punishes it as an alleged agent of Beijing's ruling Communist Party also violates its rights by presuming its guilt without a fair trial.
The summary judgment motion seeks to accelerate the legal process to give U.S. customers access to Huawei equipment sooner, Huawei said in a statement.
Song said the "state-sanctioned campaign" against the company will not improve cybersecurity.
"Politicians in the U.S. are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company," he said. "This is not normal."
But just because something might strike us as not quite fair or outright wrong doesn't necessarily make it unconstitutional, said Steven Schwinn, a professor at John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
He said Huawei's arguments, while strong on U.S. lawmakers' punitive intent, fall short constitutionally.
Schwinn and other legal scholars aren't sanguine about Huawei's chances.
"Given that this relates to national security we can expect the courts to be fairly deferential to the government and we ought to think of that as the thumb on the scale in favor of the government in all of these claims," he said.