Huawei founder dismisses espionage allegations as ‘politically motivated’

Huawei
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei called into question the motivations behind growing criticism of his company in a new interview with the BBC. (FierceWireless)

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei addressed many of the controversies facing the Chinese company and remains defiantly optimistic about its ability to overcome myriad challenges of late. “There’s no way the [United States] can crush us,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

“The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit,” he said.

The reclusive billionaire last month spoke with foreign media for the first time since 2015 to vehemently deny charges of espionage that are weighing heavily on the company and its prospects. Ren’s interview with the BBC marks a new strategy of sorts wherein he directly addressed the recent arrest of his daughter, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, and called into question the motivations behind the growing criticism of his company.

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Meng’s arrest in Vancouver at the request of U.S. officials and the subsequent 23 charges leveled against her and Huawei for money laundering, bank fraud and stealing trade secrets, are politically motivated and without merit, Ren told the BBC. “I object to what the [United States] has done. This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable.” He called it a combative method on the part of the U.S. government and said it will now have to be settled in court.

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Ren also framed the spying allegations and growing number of countries opting to ban Huawei equipment from mobile networks as a battle between the East and West. “If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South,” he told the BBC. “America doesn’t represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world.”

For almost a decade, U.S. security officials have warned network operators that Huawei’s equipment could be used to spy on Americans and U.S. allies. As the company continues to defend itself it now faces the prospect of an executive order from President Donald Trump that would ban the company’s equipment from America’s wireless networks. The administration wants to get the directive signed before MWC Barcelona kicks off next week, according to Politico.

Although Chinese companies are required to “support, cooperate with and collaborate in national intelligence work,” according to the BBC, Ren said the Chinese government and Huawei have not installed any backdoors. “We’re not going to risk the disgust of our country and of our customers all over the world because of something like this,” he said. “Our company will never undertake any spying activities. If we have any such actions then I’ll shut the company down.”

Ren’s interview was broadcast just as a new report from The Information detailed Huawei’s efforts to steal trade secrets including details that a supplier has about the heart rate sensor that Apple uses in the Apple Watch. In charges leveled against the company, the U.S. Justice Department alleges that Huawei has a formal program to reward employees for stealing information, according to the new report.

With MWC Barcelona, the industry’s largest annual gathering, getting underway in less than a week, Huawei’s challenges and prospects are certain to be a hot topic. The company is scheduled to hold media briefings and executives will be on stage for panels throughout the event. Leading up to the conference, Huawei announced that it launched the first 5G digital indoor system in Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station with China Mobile Shanghai.

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