By Eamon Barrett
February 19, 2019

In a marked escalation of rhetoric, Ren Zhengfei, the founder and CEO of Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest supplier of telecoms equipment, said there is “no way the U.S. can crush us” and labeled the arrest of his daughter and Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou as “politically motivated.”

Meng, who is Ren’s eldest child from his second wife, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1 last year. U.S. authorities requested she be detained for extradition to the U.S. where she has been accused of committing bank fraud to help Huawei skirt sanctions against Iran.

On January 15, during his first interview with foreign journalists in four years, Ren remained reserved when discussing the arrest of his daughter. “I trust that the legal systems of Canada and the United States are open, just, and fair, and will reach a just conclusion. We will make our judgment after all the evidence is made public,” he said.

Then, on January 23, the Department of Justice confirmed it will proceed with its extradition request. Ren’s tone has changed notably since.

“I object to what the U.S. has done,” Ren said, during an interview with the BBC on Tuesday. “This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable. The U.S. likes to sanction others. Whenever there’s an issue they’ll use such methods. We object to this.”

Washington has opposed Huawei’s entry to the U.S. market since 2012, when a House Intelligence Committee released a bi-partisan report that warned the telecoms manufacturer poses a threat to U.S. national security.

The U.S. has since blocked Huawei from supplying equipment for the rollout of its 5G networks. Last summer, as the trade war with China broiled, Washington put pressure on its allies to follow suit and ban Huawei equipment from 5G infrastructure.

“There’s no way the U.S. can crush us,” Ren said, Tuesday. “The world needs us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more companies not to use us, we could just scale things down a bit.”

So far, Australia, New Zealand, Poland and Japan are among the nations that have put roadblocks in Huawei’s way, citing concerns that the company’s equipment could be appropriated by Beijing and used for espionage. Huawei has vehemently denied it has ever spied on its clients for the Chinese government or that it will ever do so.

As more countries mull their future with Huawei, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a sub-group of one of the U.K.’s national intelligence agencies, threw Huawei a lifeline Monday after concluding that the risk of using Huawei equipment to deploy 5G networks could be mitigated.

Huawei technology is already deployed by all of Britain’s major network operators. In 2011 the British government worked with Huawei to establish the Huawei Cybersecurity Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), which checks all Huawei software and hardware for potential security issues before it is deployed in the U.K.

The U.K.’s inclusive model is providing an alternative approach to Washington’s outright ban on Huawei and represents a split in strategy among members of the Five Eyes security alliance. This month Huawei offered to open a similar lab in Poland.

With U.K. intelligence in his corner, Ren appears ready for a fight.

 

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