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Huawei Canada’s vice president of corporate affairs Alykhan Velshi denied the company is a front for the Communist Party of China amidst cyber and economic espionage threats the country poses to Canada and her allies.
Velshi made remarks at a media event Monday to announce a deal to provide high-speed wireless service for dozens of northern communities in the Arctic and Quebec.
“I don’t know anything about Chinese laws, because they don’t apply to me because I’m living here in Canada,” Velshi said at a Monday press conference inside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
“So we all have to follow Canadian laws on these sorts of issues; espionage and pilfering data and all of that are very clear. Which it is illegal.”
According to a recent analysis of the Chinese tech-behemoth’s ownership structure by Fulbright University economist Christopher Balding and George Washington University law professor Donald Clark, their research shows that it leads straight to China’s politburo.
“If Huawei (Trade Union) Holding (Company) is in fact controlled by a trade union committee, then given the way such bodies are supposed to operate in China, it makes sense to think of it as state-controlled and even state-owned,” Balding and Clark conclude.
As relations between Canada and China are in tatters, sparked by our arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou – for extradition to the United States over fraud and conspiracy charges – Ottawa dithers on banning or limiting deployment of Huawei’s next-generation, 5G technology on domestic telecom networks.
Citing national security vulnerabilities, U.S., Austrailia and New Zealand – part of the ‘Five Eyes’ signals and intelligence network that includes the UK and Canada – have banned Huawei from their 5G networks; Britain also intends to restrict Huawei components from its core network.
The technology is purportedly capable of activating ‘the internet of things’ – a Bluetooth world where all our gadgets are operable via smart phone – by enabling up to 10 gigabytes-per-second of data transfer.
The downside of this technology, is proliferation of such gadgetry widens an already deep field of existing cyber-threats to national security, involving not just thrill hackers but hostile state actors with strategic intention.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s spokesperson Scott Bardsley indicated to The Post Millennial in an email that, “We will be taking appropriate decisions in due course. We will ensure that our networks are kept safe for Canadians.”
“While we cannot comment on specific companies, an examination of emerging 5G technology and the associated security and economic considerations is underway.”
Asked if Canadians could trust Huawei’s domestic business decisions were directed by in-country corporate officials and not China’s communist regime in Beijing, Velshi said “that’s a very fair question.”
“So Huawei Canada has been operating in Canada since 2008. It’s a company that is registered in Canada with Industry Canada. The names of our directors are public,” he continued.
“Obviously, Huawei Global is a major, multinational company that’s based in China and that operates in 170 countries. Canada is one of them. Every Huawei employee in Canada…has to follow Canadian laws, right.”
Velshi also faced questions about a Washington Post story that Huawei built North Korea’s 3G cell network, while year-over-year the Canadian Security Establishment and Canadian Security and Intelligence Services maintain constant vigil against and have reported to parliament on cyber threats posed by China and her proxies.
As far back as 2012, CSIS warned of China’s economic espionage and cyber ambitions, and more recently has found Canada to be a target in this realm by Iran.
Iran’s emergence as a state cyber-hacking threat with nuclear weapons ambitions, adds further dimension to Meng’s pending U.S. extradition – her fraud and conspiracy charges relate to Huawei business conducted in Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions against the regime.
At a different Monday press conference in the capital, Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre reminded reporters that Andrew Scheer is “going to ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G network and protect Canadians and our security”.
“I think the latest news we’ve seen on (Huawei) confirms Mr. Scheer’s position on this question was right all along,” said Poilievre, during a confab he called to dump on Prime Minister Trudeau’s re-hiring of Gerald Butts for the upcoming federal election campaign.
In the absence of a decision on 5G from Ottawa, Canada continues to do business with a company tied to the Communist Party of China and since Meng’s arrest, the country has watched its economic, security, diplomatic and legal interests be severely compromised.
Less than two weeks ago, ex-ambassador to China John McCallum told South China Morning Post that a Liberal government in Ottawa is much better for the local regime than a Conservative one, and that China should be nicer to us.
Asked if Huawei shared McCallum’s view, Velshi aligned himself and the Canadian subsidiary with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
“Let me make it clear. John McCallum doesn’t speak for Huawei Canada, never has. I think Minister Freeland very helpfully clarified that…no Canadian should ever advise or counsel a foreign government to take sides in a Canadian election. It’s totally inappropriate.”
In the weeks following Meng’s December 1, 2018 detention and current house arrest in Vancouver, China detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and have since accused the pair of espionage.
Meng is the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, who shares a one-percent stake in the Huawei Trade Union Holding Company tied to China’s communist regime.
McCallum lost his job in late January after giving an interview to select Chinese media in Toronto where he suggested possible ways China could challenge Meng’s extradition under Canadian law.
Meng has since sued over human rights violations alleged to have taken place during her original detention. And at the end of June, Meng’s lawyers played their PR card by making public portions of a letter to Attorney General David Lametti, in which they argue that U.S. law should not apply to their client in Canada.
On the trade front, China tightened economic screws and by the time Trudeau was in Osaka, Japan for G20 on June 28, nearly $3 billion in canola and other seed product was under embargo and a total ban on Canadian meat had been implemented, on top of China’s Quebec pork prohibition in April.
Having little luck getting an actual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trudeau flew to Washington D.C. a week before the Osaka summit and asked U.S. President Donald Trump to lobby Xi for the release of Kovrig and Spavor.
Back in Canada, former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien – McCallum’s cabinet boss before Trudeau – was quoted by anonymous sources in a Globe and Mail story that Canada should scrap extradition proceedings and reset relations with China by letting Meng go.
In a CBC interview following the Globe report, McCallum suggested a scenario where Trump drops the charges against Meng, the ex-ambassador’s penultimate media intervention in the ongoing political saga.
But McCallum’s observation was infused with some realism as Trump has suggested in several interviews that Meng could be part of settling a separate trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
Despite the Huawei ban from U.S telecom networks, the Chinese firm looms large in these trade negotiations – set to pick up next week in Shanghai – as Trump can ease restrictions on U.S. tech firms selling to Huawei.
So in the face of China’s belligerence toward Canada, and overarching geopolitics involving the U.S., China and Iran, Huawei Canada’s rather upbeat pitch to deliver “connectivity to the North” provided a stark contrast.
The company’s presentation included three, big-budget short films about indigenous Canadians in the far north who touts benefits of reliable, high-speed internet; films that form the basis of an upcoming public relations blitz in cinemas across the country, Velshi hopes.
But as Huawei looks to improve its image in the Canadian marketplace, Velshi was providing assurances that the China-based firm was autonomous from a government currently punishing the Canadian economy and basically holding two of our citizens hostage.
“There’s never been any sort of complaint from either security agencies or customers that we have not complied with Canadian law,” said Velshi. “I would add to that, that our founder in China has said that were he to receive an inappropriate request, he would refuse to comply with it.”
“The way I look at it, there’s multiple levels of protection here in Canada. Every single Huawei employee in Canada knows that we have to follow the laws of Canada and the laws of Canada alone.”
Huawei Canada’s five-year plan to install 4G LTE network for 20 Arctic communities and 50 in northern Québec constitutes, “radio access network hardware…antennas (and) baseboard equipment – so it’s none core equipment hardware that’s going out there.”
“(It’s) fully compliant with the rules under (the security review program run by the Canadian Security Establishment, for 3G and 4G equipment. It’s all radio access network equipment,” said Velshi.