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FCC Orders Shutdown of US Arm of China Unicom, Primary Telecom Provider for Beijing Olympics

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Jan. 27 voted to block state-owned China Unicom from the U.S. market, adding to a growing list of Chinese telecommunication carriers ejected from operating on American soil over national security concerns.

The body’s 4-0 vote on Thursday means that all three of China’s leading wireless carriers are now barred, following the FCC’s action last year to ban China Telecom Americas, and its refusal to let China Mobile access the U.S. market two years earlier.

The FCC decision gives the firm 60 days to cease domestic and international services.

The agency first granted China Unicom Americas operating authority two decades ago. But the national security landscape has shifted since then, said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

“There has been mounting evidence—and with it, a growing concern—that Chinese state-owned carriers pose a real threat to the security of our telecommunications networks,” she said in a statement.

Rosenworcel added that the FCC has begun similar proceedings against Chinese telecom providers Pacific Networks Corp and ComNet, its wholly-owned subsidiary. The order, which commenced in April 2020, required the firms to show proof that they are free from Chinese state influence in order to continue operating in the country.

China Unicom’s Beijing operation is the official and only communication service partner for the 2022 Beijing Olympics that is set to open on Feb. 4. Over the past year, it has partnered with Huawei, another Chinese telecom provider that the FCC has labeled a security threat and is subject to U.S. sanctions, to build 5G networks in preparation for the Beijing games.

Beijing 2022 Athletes' Village Opens To Media
A general view of a service hall of China Unicom inside the athletes’ village for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China, on Dece. 24, 2021. (Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images)

The FCC flagged China Unicom’s state ownership and its compliance with Chinese cybersecurity law, which it said could render the company an espionage tool and give Beijing opportunities to “access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute U.S. communications.”

Over the course of the investigation, China Unicom Americas had multiple opportunities to make its case, but its responses have consistently been “incomplete, misleading, or incorrect,” Rosenworcel said.

“[T]he company is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests—including the disclosure of communications by American citizens—without sufficient legal protections and independent judicial oversight,” said commissioner Geoffrey Starks in a statement, adding that the company’s failure to provide accurate and truthful information to the commission has demonstrated that it “simply cannot be trusted” to provide services in the United States.

China Telecom Americas did not respond to a request from The Epoch Times for comment. In a June 2020 filing to the FCC, it said the company had “a two-decade track record as a valuable contributor to U.S. telecommunications markets, a good record of compliance with its FCC regulatory obligations, and a demonstrated willingness to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies.”

A cybersecurity report from December that year showed that China Unicom was behind a state-directed mass surveillance effort on Americans’ phones back in 2018.

By exploiting existing network vulnerabilities, the regime was able to monitor and intercept communications of U.S. mobile users while they traveled abroad. The number of individuals targeted is in the tens of thousands, according to the report. China Unicom refuted the report findings.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who led the effort on a 2018 bipartisan congressional report warning about Chinese intelligence collection efforts through telecom suppliers such as China Unicom, said he was pleased to see the FCC action.

Revoking China Unicom Americas’ license marks “another step forward in ensuring our communications networks are secure for all Americans,” he said in a tweet.

Commissioner Starks said that China Unicom Americas can still offer data center services to American customers even after the loss of license. The commission is planning to issue a consumer guide in English, simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese on its website to alert users of alternatives, the agency said.

Eva Fu


Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S.-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Contact Eva at

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