CHAMPAIGN — After the University of Illinois cut ties with Chinese tech firm Huawei this spring, UI officials said the company’s Research Park office was independent of the university.
Now that office has closed, Research Park LLC board member and interim Vice Chancellor for Research Susan Martinis told News-Gazette Media this week.
“Huawei decided to voluntarily move out,” she said. “That was probably helpful with the national conversation going on.”
The U.S. government considers Huawei a national-security threat and, in the past year, has taken legal action against the company for allegedly stealing trade secrets.
Research Park Director Laura Frerichs confirmed that Huawei left, calling it a “real-estate transaction.”
“The sign was removed from the office two months ago and is no longer staffed in the Research Park,” she said in an email.
Huawei did not respond to a request for comment, but it has denied being a security threat.
In April, Martinis and College of Engineering Dean Rashid Bashir announced that the UI would no longer be accepting new grants, contracts or gifts from Huawei but that faculty members with existing partnerships could complete their work.
This affected 11 researchers, engineering spokesman Bill Bell said at the time, but he said Huawei’s office at the Research Park isn’t leased through the UI.
Fox Development CEO Andrea Ruedi said then that the Huawei lease was still in effect.
The UI had already taken steps in 2016 to forbid Huawei equipment from connecting to UI networks, before a law was signed last year restricting recipients of federal funding from using Huawei equipment but after U.S. officials began warning about the company.
Huawei employees at the Research Park office used their own equipment and networks, Ruedi said.
Huawei is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of cellphones and the largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, which is used in cell towers and routers, for example.
The U.S. government has been issuing warnings since at least 2012 that Huawei equipment could be used to spy on American companies and government agencies, though there has been no public evidence that it has done so.
Antagonism between the company and the U.S. has heated up in the past year.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, was arrested in December for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions against Iran by selling equipment to the country through a subsidiary.
In January, the U.S. Department of Justice filed 13 charges against the company and Meng, including for allegedly stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile.
And, in May, the United States restricted American companies from supplying parts to Huawei unless they had government approval.