OTTAWA - China’s ambassador to Canada is calling on the federal government to ignore “invented” warnings from the United States about Huawei and allow the Chinese telecom giant’s participation in this country’s 5G networks.
Ambassador Cong Peiwu made the comments during a wide-ranging discussion on Tuesday in which he also warned Canada about any official contacts with Taiwan and blasted the U.S. for a planned diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics.
The discussion hosted by the Centre for International Governance Innovation comes as the Liberal government appears poised to finally decide whether Huawei will be allowed to participate in Canada’s AI-powered, next-generation 5G internet network.
Canada is the only member of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance — whose membership includes the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand — that has yet to announce a decision despite years of study and security reviews.
The other four countries have all banned or restricted Huawei's involvement in their own networks, citing concerns that allowing the company’s equipment in their upgraded data networks could make them more vulnerable to Chinese spying.
Cong shot back against such concerns during a discussion hosted by the Waterloo, Ont.-based CIGI think tank, describing American warnings about Huawei as a “ploy” intended to hurt Huawei and other Chinese companies.
Various reports have emerged over the years about concerns with Huawei equipment, including in Europe and Africa, but the ambassador maintained there is no “concrete evidence” Huawei is a security threat.
“It is invented by the United States,” Cong said. “And the main purpose for that is to crack down on Huawei.”
Cong went on to accuse the U.S. itself of being the “biggest threat” when it comes to spying, including of its own allies. Washington has been repeatedly accused over the years of spying on top European politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“It is the United States who have been doing these kinds of things over the past decades,” he said. “Even monitoring its allies, the leaders of its allies. So that is the biggest threat to the world.”
The Canadian government delayed its decision on Huawei because China had until recently imprisoned two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in what was widely seen as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
But a decision is now expected after the two Michaels were released in September after more than 1,000 days in Chinese prison. Their release came after American authorities abandoned their prosecution of Meng on fraud allegations.
Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne signalled the government may reject Huawei as a 5G provider when he told The Canadian Press last month the government only wants to deal with “trusted partners” in future artificial intelligence ventures.
Fifth-generation internet — or 5G — will rely on artificially intelligent cloud-based computing that is expected to transform everyday life, enabling self-driving cars and automated medical care, including surgery, among other things.
Cong, insisted it is a private company and not an arm of the Chinese government as some have alleged, said he hopes Canada will “make the judgment on its own and not be listening to the opinion from the United States.”
He added that the decision on Huawei should be based on business and not national security, and warned rejecting Huawei could hurt Canada’s standing among foreign investors as a welcoming business environment.
While Huawei dominated part of the discussion about the China-Canada relationship, Cong also touched on another increasingly sensitive topic by warning Canadian officials against any move toward Taiwan.
The Chinese government considers the island democracy to be a rogue province and there have been growing concerns in recent weeks and months that Beijing will launch an invasion that would draw in the U.S. and its allies.
Canada has long subscribed to what is known as the One China Policy, which states there is only one Chinese government, does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country and thus does not involve official diplomatic ties with Taipei.
Cong in his remarks said his government hopes Canada “will continue to honour the One China principle, and make sure that you are not be engaged in any official contacts with Taiwan.”
He also slammed the U.S. government’s announcement of a “diplomatic boycott” of February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing over China’s human rights records, including its treatment of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities.
The ambassador repeatedly described allegations China is engaged in a genocide of Uighurs in Xinjiang province as “the lie of the century,” and accused the U.S. of politicizing sports with its plan not to send a delegation to the Olympics.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2021.