China accuses Canada of ‘political manipulation’ over Huawei and ZTE’s 5G ban

Visitors take pictures of the Huawei stand on the opening day of the MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona on February 28, 2022.PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images

Beijing has accused Ottawa of “political manipulation” after it decided to ban Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from Canada’s 5G networks.

Speaking at a regular press conference on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Canada’s decision “goes against the principles of market economy and free trade rules and seriously damages the rights and interests of Chinese companies.”

“China will make a full and serious assessment of the situation and take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies,” he told reporters in Beijing.

In an earlier statement, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Canada accused Ottawa of conspiring with the United States “to crack down on Chinese companies”, saying the security concerns were “just a pretext for political manipulation”.

Canadian ministers announced on Thursday that a national intelligence review had concluded that the two Chinese telecommunications giants posed potential security risks. Canadian companies that currently use Huawei and ZTE equipment in their networks will be required to retire them within the next five years.

Canada to ban Huawei from 5G network, ministers say

Huawei and ZTE are two of China’s most successful tech companies, but have come under increasing international scrutiny over alleged close ties to the Chinese state and military. Many Huawei employees, including founder Ren Zhengfei, are former members of the People’s Liberation Army or Chinese security services.

Concerns have also been raised about requirements under Chinese law for companies to cooperate with the state on security issues, as well as the significant extrajudicial pressure Beijing can exert on Chinese companies.

As early as 2012, the U.S. House Standing Select Committee on Intelligence warned that “Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free from the influence of a foreign state and therefore constitute a threat to the security of the United States and our systems.”

As countries began rolling out next-generation networking capabilities over the next decade, many governments moved to block Chinese companies from participating, despite their technology often being more advanced and cheaper than China’s. their competitors.

Until this week, Canada was the only member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance – which also includes Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States – that had no yet prohibits or restricts the use of Huawei 5G mobile equipment.

Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said that after careful consideration, Canada would ban telecom companies from using Huawei and ZTE products in their 5G network services. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says cybersecurity is a national security issue and protecting Canada’s telecommunications networks is essential.

The Canadian Press

The Huawei decision took years and was being considered as Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig spent nearly three years in Chinese jails after being held in apparent retaliation for the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.

Daughter of Mr. Ren, the founder of Huawei, Ms. Meng was detained in Vancouver in 2019 at the request of the United States, which sought her extradition for bank fraud. In September 2021, Washington and Beijing reached an agreement that allowed Ms Meng to return to China under a deferred prosecution agreement.

In a speech after her release, she personally thanked President Xi Jinping, saying he cared about “every Chinese citizen”. Ms Meng soon returned to her role at Huawei and in April this year was named rotating chairwoman, sharing the top job with a number of other executives.

Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor were released shortly after Ms. Meng and returned to Canada, although Beijing maintained the cases were unrelated.

Since the release of the two Canadians, Ottawa has hinted that a decision on banning Huawei is imminent. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted in September that many Canadian telecommunications companies had already begun removing the company’s technology from their networks.

Speaking on Thursday, Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the decision to ban Huawei and ZTE “follows a full review by our security agencies and in consultation with our closest allies.” .

The move will likely complicate and potentially reverse a gradual rapprochement between Ottawa and Beijing since the release of Ms. Meng and the two Michaels. Earlier this week, China reversed a three-year ban on imports of Canadian canola oil that was introduced following Ms Meng’s detention.

In its statement, the Chinese Embassy in Canada said banning Huawei would “certainly harm the international image and personal interests of the Canadian side.”

Huawei spokesman Alykhan Velshi said the decision was disappointing for the company’s 1,500 Canadian workers. He said the government had not “given a specific example of the national security threat posed by Huawei”.

Canadian lawmakers from all walks of life hail Ottawa’s decision but wonder why it’s taken so long, with Conservative MPs Raquel Dancho and Gerard Deltell saying “the Liberal government’s lack of action on this decision has been an embarrassment international”.

With files from Alexandra Li, Bill Curry and Alexandra Posadzki

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