Relationship turns increasingly frosty as Canada mulls whether to ban Huawei’s 5G equipment
China has warned Canada there will be ‘repercussions’ if it decides, like some Western nations, to ban the use of 5G equipment from Huawei Technologies on security grounds.
The warning, from China’s ambassador to Canada, comes after China arrested two Canadian men, an entrepreneur (Michael Spavor) and a former diplomat (Michael Kovrig) last month. Meanwhile another Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was jailed for drug smuggling, has just been sentenced to death.
The Chinese move comes after the arrest in early December of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer and deputy chair of Chinese networking giant Huawei.
That arrest prompted a furious response from China including threats of ‘consequences’, as Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on behalf of US officials, who are investigating Huawei over possible violation of sanctions against Iran.
The case against Wanzhou deepened recently when Reuters uncovered documents that allegedly show the close links between Huawei and two holding companies at the centre of sanction busting allegations in Iran.
But in a further esclation of the already frosty relationship between Canada and the Asian giant, the Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye, speaking at a news conference, issued a fresh warning.
“If the Canadian government does ban Huawei from participating in the 5G network, then as for what kind of repercussion there will be, I’m not sure, but I believe there will be repercussions,” Lu was quoted by Reuters as saying through an interpreter, urging Ottawa to “make a wise decision on this issue”.
Canada is currently studying the security implications of 5G networks, but unlike other Western nations, has not decided whether to exclude Huawei equipment.
That said, Canada is thought to have refused to allow Huawei to be involved with the construction of a government communications network.
New Zealand was one of the latest to clamp down on the use of Huawei kit.
It should be remembered that New Zealand is part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing network that consists of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Senior officials in Germany have also recently urged the German government to ban the use of Chinese equipment, like that from Huawei, in their 5G networks.
The British government in November had written to telcos, warning them against using equipment makers such as Huawei when rolling out 5G networks, because of an ongoing security review of those Chinese firms.
BT meanwhile has pledged to remove Huawei equipment from the next-generation emergency services communication network it is developing for the government
Indeed, the reclusive Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said on Tuesday this week that the Chinese government had never asked the company to spy.
Ren’s comments follow the arrest of a Huawei employee in Poland last week on espionage charges. Following the arrest, Poland said it may consider limiting Huawei’s involvement in telecoms infrastructure programmes.
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