Brussels, Den of Spies — Brussels Times Publishes Huawei Propaganda Disguised As Journalism [UPDATE : The Cost of Media Corruption]

“The campaign included anonymous news articles that were taken almost word-for-word from Huawei’s press releases (…) and opinion articles authored by senior company executives that were not disclosed as paid-for posts.”

(September 22 2021)

July 1 2019 — The Brussels Times is Belgium’s leading English-language daily news media. Their website has posted a very suspicious piece of “journalism” regarding the wonderful future of Huawei in Europe. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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“Sell all your shares of Proximus today! Soon, these shares won’t be worth more than toilet paper.”

Intel Today (May 1st 2020)

Proximus NV [PROX-BE : Euronext Brussels]

UPDATE (September 23 2022) — Time flights when you are having fun… On April 23 2020, I wrote:

Criminal collusion between Belgian politicians and a Telecom operator can be proven.

I can also provide evidence that public servants have helped China to mount an espionage operation in Brussels.

In all these stories, the complicity of the Belgian media was a necessary condition.

At least one newspaper was paid to spin Chinese 5G propaganda. But even the [French language] Belgian Journalism Ethics Commission appears to have been corrupted by Chinese money.

And thus a few days later (May 1st 2020), I issued a simple recommendation to Proximus shareholders (Proximus, the main Belgian Telecom Operator, is owned primarily by the State –53%):

“In 2016, I issued a set of clear recommendations to the Belgian government about 4G and 5G. Not surprisingly, the government chose to ignore them. I will give these folks a final piece of advice. Sell all your shares of Proximus today! Soon, these shares won’t be worth more than toilet paper.”

The Belgian government has of course made the wrong choice! In November 2020, Belgian federal minister Petra De Sutter stated that the Belgian State must remain in control of Proximus.

Since I made that recommendation, shares of Proximus are already down by about 18 euros (70%). The Belgian State owns 180,887,569 shares of Proximus out of 338,025,135. This lost amounts to a staggering 3.2 billion of euros. And that money will be badly missing in the next few months…

PS — According to a Belgian magistrate, the situation has reached the point at which it is now a matter of stopping the country becoming the European twin of Colombia. [LeMonde : ‘Narco-state’ fears in Belgium after summer of violence By Jean-Pierre Stroobants]

I know both countries quite well. I believe that the Belgian government is too weak to fight the narcos. I am very pessimistic about the future of Belgium.

Roger Cohen — The Islamic State of Molenbeek (The New York Times, April 11 2016) — has long pointed out that:

“A jihadi loves a vacuum. Belgium as a state, and Belgium as the heart of the European Union are as close to a vacuum as Europe offers these days. (…) There is a vacuum. Vacuums are dangerous.”

Let me add this. Like the jihadists, Narcos also love a political vacuum. And to them, Belgium is heaven on earth. Do not rule out a loose collaboration between these groups…


“There are two fundamental problems. One, Brussels simply has not kept up in the development of lobbying. The second is that there’s no enforcement of the current rules.”

Michiel van Hulten
Director of Transparency International EU

UPDATE (September 23 2021) — POLITICO : “Huawei’s under-the-radar Brussels blitz”

According to an investigation by POLITICO just published, Brussels Newspaper’s coverage on Huawei included anonymous news articles taken almost word-for-word from Huawei’s press releases.

“As the geopolitical winds began to turn against it last year, the Chinese telecommunications giant wanted to rehabilitate its reputation in the halls of power in the European Union. It turned to an outlet with a long association with Beijing and a business model that allows clients to publish pay-for-play lobbying while making it look like independent news.”

“The campaign included anonymous news articles that were taken almost word-for-word from Huawei’s press releases; a virtual event that promoted its views on political battles around so-called 5G mobile technology; and opinion articles authored by senior company executives that were not disclosed as paid-for posts.”

Anonymous and fake identity journalism — An article dated February 2021 was bylined as “technology correspondent,” but simply repeated a Huawei press release.

Another suspicious piece is attributed to Louis Auge, a journalist whose name only appears to be linked to the Brussels-based media outlet.

Two open-source intelligence analysts, who reviewed POLITICO’s findings, believe that ‘Auge’ could be a pseudonym used by EU Reporter employees as no reference to the journalist could be traced to other news organizations.

A key piece of disinformation is authored by ‘EU Reporter Correspondent’ solely quoted Abraham Liu, Huawei’s top EU lobbyist.

According to POLITICO, these practices do not break Belgian law or the EU’s own transparency lobbying guidelines. 

But they do violate media industry standards aimed at ensuring readers can distinguish between independent journalism and content being pushed by commercial or political interests.

Why it matters — In filings to the U.S. government as part of required disclosers when registering as a foreign lobbyists, consultancies working on behalf of Huawei submitted all these publications for some of their bona fides, according to POLITICO’s review of U.S. Department of Justice data.

This is truly a great piece about ‘Propaganda Disguised As Journalism’ and I recommend that you read the article or listen to the podcast.

RELATED POST: Brussels, Den of Spies — The European Capital is a playground for spies [UPDATE : British ex-Diplomat and Former MI-6 accused of Espionage for China]

RELATED POST: Brussels, Den of Spies — Belgian Justice Minister : “Chinese Espionage is Very Real.”

However, I would like to point out one mistake. As I explained in this post (published on July 1st 2019), the complicity between some Brussels media and Huawei began BEFORE February 2020.

PS — When I pointed out to the Committee for Deontological Journalism that Brussels Times had published Huawei Propaganda disguised as a piece of journalism, Muriel Hanot, their general secretary, sent me a extraordinary answer. (See full text in reference) Hanot argued that the article was a perfectly fine piece of serious journalism! Over 65% of people in Belgium think corruption is a problem. That is a bit of an understatement…


“Democracies succeed or fail based on their journalism.”
American Journalist Scott Pelley

UPDATE (July 1st 2020) — Last week, the Belgian National Security Council (NVR) has decided to protect the future 5G network against espionage.

Telecom Minister Philippe De Backer (Open VLD) has announced that Belgium has decided to “impose strict safety conditions to prevent undesirable use”.

RELATED POST: 5G — Will European Countries Ban Huawei? [UPDATE –Belgium restricts access to Huawei and ZTE]

In practice, Huawei (and ZTE) equipment should only be allowed in a very limited role.

In the past, Belgium was one of only four European countries to rely solely on Chinese equipment in their 4G mobile networks. The others are Cyprus, Lithuania, and Malta.

“With the technology switch to 5G, operators will need to replace most of their 4G radio network equipment, Strand said, estimating the total additional cost from replacing Chinese equipment at $3.5 billion across the continent.” [REUTERS]

In practice, the Belgian National Security Council has imposed a full ban on using high-risk vendors in the “core” and “backbone” parts of 5G networks and a cap of 35 percent for such vendors in the “radio access” part of the network.

Belgium’s security services will also define geographical areas and “sensitive sites” where the use of these vendors will be restricted. [POLITICO] Please, keep in mind that Brussels hosts the NATO headquarters and the main EU institutions.

“The decision didn’t make specific mentions of Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE. The Belgian government instead said it will follow the European Commission’s “toolbox” on 5G security, which defined “high-risk vendors” as suppliers that could be “subject to interference from a non-EU country” through intelligence legislation, government control or a lack of “democratic checks and balances” in their home country — criteria associated with the two Chinese firms in particular.”

For their 4G networks, Proximus (53% state-owned operator) and the local subsidiary of French giant Orange worked with Huawei  while Telenet used ZTE equipment .

In some sense, the story is over, but I will point out a few anecdotes about the Brussels Times piece.

According to the unsigned article,

“In April (2019), the Belgian Centre for Cybersecurity (CCB), announced that it had not found any evidence of cyber security threats, following a months-long investigation, and will consequently not issue a negative opinion on the company.”

Had the Proximus shareholders known the facts better, and it was obvious at the time that a ban on Huawei would be imposed, they would have expected that the cost of a 5G network would cost hundred of millions more. And thus, they may have decided to sell their shares before they plummeted later on.

The Wikipedia page of the Brussels Times now clearly mentions that Huawei CEO Ken Hu is indeed a contributor of their newspaper… It will be interesting to find out how much money the Newspaper has received from Huawei? And for what reasons?

When I pointed out to the Committee for Deontological Journalism that Brussels Times had published Huawei Propaganda disguised as a piece of journalism, Muriel Hanot, their general secretary, sent me a extraordinary answer. (See full text in reference) Hanot argued that the article was a perfectly fine piece of journalism. Amazing!

When I informed her that the text quoted does not even match the speech given by Huawei CEO Ken Hu, she answered that it was evidence that the article had been written by a journalist from the Brussels Times who attended the conference at the 2019 annual Mobile World Congress in Shanghai.

That is of course factually untrue, and I challenge her to name the journalist. Something is rotten in the Kingdom of Belgium.

PS — On July 25 2019, Dominique Leroy — the then CEO of Proximus — sold 10,840 shares of  Proximus. Since then, Leroy has been investigated for insider trading.

Yesterday (Tuesday June 30), Leroy has agree to pay the maximum fine (Penal transaction) in order to avoid a trial and criminal sanctions.


“By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”
 Oscar Wilde

On June 28 2019, The Brussels Times publishes a piece titled: “Huawei remains determined and on course to bring 5G to Europe “.

The article reads:

“Global tech giant Huawei remains committed and determined to work with Europe to develop its 5G network, as the new technology has gradually begun its commercial deployment this year.

This was emphasised and one of the key messages by its deputy chairman and rotating CEO Ken Hu during the annual Mobile World Congress in Shanghai this week.


Despite its advantageous market position however, the company faces difficult challenges and it suffered a big blow last month when the Trump administration added Huawei to a blacklist which prevents US companies from supplying it without first obtaining a US government license.

Addressing concerns over this, Ken Hu expressed disappointment at this decision, which he believed is “unfair and unjustified” as it is not based on any concrete evidence of malpractice, and emphasised that the company has ‘taken actions over the past months to ensure that its business is not affected’, and that they have ‘already found alternative supply solutions, including self-developed solutions or sourcing from non-American partners’ for components affected by the US blacklist.”

It is rather obvious that this “article” is not a piece of journalism. Obviously, it is a Press Release [PR] produced by an English-speaking PR company.

The statement is packed with PR clichés and the entire style and structure is absolutely typical of the PR industry. Also, please, note that there is no named journalist.

This type of publication is strictly forbidden by the Deontological Code for the Journalism Profession.

For those who read French, here are the relevant provisions of the Belgian Code:

“Les journalistes ne prêtent pas leur concours à des activités de publicité ou de communication non journalistique.”

“Les rédactions s’assurent que les messages publicitaires sont présentés de façon à éviter la confusion avec l’information journalistique.”

Code de déontologie journalistique (Art. 13)

Obviously, this incident must be investigated. It surely begs some questions.

Why is Huawei using such a technique to convince European leaders? And why has the Brussels Times accepted to engage in such fraudulent journalism?


Huawei remains determined and on course to bring 5G to Europe   — Brussels Times (June 28 2019)

Code de déontologie journalistique — Official website


Decision of the Committee for Deontological Journalism — August 29 2019


J’ai bien reçu ce 23/08/2019 votre courrier de plainte relatif à un article paru sur le site du Brussels Time le 28 juin dernier. Vous relevez que cet article qui relaie les propos tenus en conférence de presse par un patron de Huawei est susceptible de porter atteinte à l’art. 13 du Code de déontologie journalistique (confusion publicité – information).

Pour être recevable au CDJ, une plainte doit rencontrer cinq critères formels (identité du plaignant, respect d’un délai maximum de deux mois après diffusion, motifs de la plainte, désignation du média visé, copie ou référence précise de la séquence diffusée). Ces critères sont respectés dans votre cas.

Toute plainte introduite au CDJ doit également porter sur un enjeu déontologique. Or, sans présumer de la compétence du CDJ sur l’éditeur, je constate que l’enjeu déontologique que vous soulevez ne trouve, suivant la jurisprudence du CDJ et en l’état des informations à ma disposition, pas à se concrétiser.

En effet, l’art. 13 du Code de déontologie journalistique n’empêche par un ou une journaliste de citer des marques. La jurisprudence du CDJ précise que le fait de mentionner une marque ou un nom de produit dans une production journalistique ne constitue pas de facto un manquement à la déontologie pour autant que le compte rendu ait été réalisé en fonction des seuls critères journalistiques et en toute indépendance par rapport aux marques et produits cités. Or après lecture, je constate que l’article en cause rend compte explicitement d’une conférence de presse du patron de Huawei, en sélectionnant des points particuliers et les mettant à distance et en perspective.

Le fait que l’auteur de l’article cite des passages que l’on ne retrouve pas dans le communiqué de presse n’est pas fautif mais est plutôt le signe que l’auteur a assisté à la conférence et a sélectionné lui-même les éléments qu’ils jugeait pertinents dans l’intervention du responsable d’Huawei. Le « Guide des bonnes pratiques des journalistes avec leurs sources » indique ainsi à propos du communiqué et de la conférence de presse qui sont des offres d’information : « Le principe est celui de la liberté d’usage par le média (…). Toutefois, si le journaliste reste libre d’utiliser les informations qui lui semblent les plus pertinentes, même si ce ne sont pas celles que la source préfère voir soulignées, le sens des propos ne peut être altéré. L’honnêteté reste de mise ». Par ailleurs, je ne relève pas d’indices d’ordre publicitaire. A ce propos, il faut préciser que l’absence de signature n’est pas nécessairement le signe que l’on se trouve devant une publicité. Signer ou non un article relève en effet du droit moral d’un auteur. Il peut donc arriver que des articles de presse ne soient pas signés. Dans ce cas, ce qui n’est pas signé tombe de facto sous la responsabilité du rédacteur en chef. L’absence de signature ne signifie donc pas qu’il y a carence de responsabilité rédactionnelle.

Au vu de notre jurisprudence et en l’état des informations dont je dispose, je n’ouvre donc pas de dossier. Pour autant, si en dépit de ce qui précède vous estimez toujours que des fautes déontologiques ont été commises dans cet article et si vous souhaitez maintenir votre plainte, je vous invite à me l’indiquer en en précisant les raisons.

Merci de le faire sous quinzaine soit au plus tard pour le 13 septembre 2019.

En vous souhaitant bonne réception de la présente,


Muriel Hanot


Belgium — Brussels Times Publishes Huawei Propaganda Disguised As Journalism

One Year Ago — BELGIUM — Brussels Times Publishes Huawei Propaganda Disguised As Journalism

Brussels, Den of Spies — Brussels Times Publishes Huawei Propaganda Disguised As Journalism [UPDATE — POLITICO : “Huawei’s under-the-radar Brussels blitz”]

Brussels, Den of Spies — Brussels Times Publishes Huawei Propaganda Disguised As Journalism [UPDATE : The Cost of Media Corruption]

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