Chinese diplomats overseas have stepped up their defence of telecom giant Huawei ahead of Canada’s decision on Friday on whether to proceed with a hearing for the extradition of the company’s chief financial officer to the United States.
The support comes amid continued pressure from the US to ban Huawei from next-generation telecommunications networks and divergent views among Western nations about the potential security risks posed by the Chinese company.
The US and allies such as Australia have banned Huawei from development of their 5G networks over concerns that Beijing could use the company for espionage. Other countries, including Canada, have yet to make a decision on the issue.
At the same time, Ottawa has until midnight on March 1 to decide whether to go ahead with a formal extradition hearing for Meng Wanzhou – Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder – at the behest of the United States. Washington has accused Meng of aiding her company in violating US sanctions against Iran – charges she, her company, and Beijing deny.
Chinese ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye said US security concerns about Huawei were “bunk”, and only an attempt to suppress competitors, Ottawa-based The Hill Times reported on Wednesday.
“The attack by US and other countries’ intelligence agencies is not based on real national security concerns, but is meant to crowd out Huawei and create unfair competition conditions to benefit their own domestic telecom equipment companies,” Lu was quoted as saying.
In Europe, China’s ambassador to the European Union, Zhang Ming, urged Europe not to erect a 5G “iron curtain”, brushing aside concerns within the 28-member bloc about China’s espionage law that compels companies to supply data to Beijing’s security services.
“5G technology will create the era of ‘Internet of Everything’, which will be closely related to all aspects of human life in the future. It’s normal for there to be widespread concern over its security. No responsible country will be naive on this issue,” Zhang said in an opinion piece on European news site Euractiv on Tuesday.
Zhang said some Europeans had misunderstood China’s National Intelligence Law, which EU officials had raised repeatedly as the chief cause for concern about the use of Chinese networking equipment.
European countries, like Norway, Poland and the Czech Republic, have all expressed security concerns about Huawei. But Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said last month that the risks posed by the company were “manageable”. And Germany has said it does not want to exclude Huawei.
Those differences could be narrowed, with Mariya Gabriela, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, saying on Monday that the bloc would soon decide on criteria for telecom network vendors.
“We all know that this fragmentation damages the digital single market,” Gabriel said in her keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s biggest gathering for the telecom industry.
Also in Barcelona, US representatives encouraged Europe to speak with one voice on the risks posed by Huawei.
“We have been very successful in convincing these governments to work with us to think about these types of threats to their future infrastructure,” Robert Strayer, the top US diplomat for cybersecurity policy, told the congress.