The threat had been brewing for several years. Canada will ban Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE from rolling out its 5G network in the country after years of dithering, Justin Trudeau’s government announced Thursday.
This long-awaited decision had been postponed by the Canadian government due to tensions between Ottawa and Beijing in recent years linked to the three-year diplomatic-judicial saga that followed the arrest of the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecom giant. Huawei, Meng Wanzhou.
“We are announcing our intention to ban Huawei and ZTE products and services in Canada’s telecommunications systems,” Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Thursday at a press conference. “This follows a full review by our security agencies and in consultation with our closest allies,” he added.
Data spying fear
The United States is leading the campaign against Huawei, with the spectacular banishment of the Chinese group by US President Donald Trump in May 2019.
Washington, which no longer has a major telecom equipment manufacturer in mobile networks, has since openly encouraged its European partners to do the same, against the backdrop of a showdown with China. Other Canadian allies have followed suit in the United States, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and Sweden. The American intelligence services fear above all that Huawei will allow the Chinese authorities to use its equipment to monitor communications and data traffic. Huawei assures that it would refuse any such request.
Contacted by AFP, Huawei Canada could not be reached immediately to react to the announcement. For Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino, 5G innovation “represents a major opportunity for competition and growth” but “also involves risks”. “There are many hostile actors who are ready to exploit vulnerabilities” in telecommunications networks, he said at the press conference.
The diplomatic relationship between Canada and China soured at the end of 2018 with the arrest, in Vancouver, of Meng Wanzhou, the financial director of Huawei and daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecom juggernaut. This marked the start of a major crisis between the two countries called “hostage diplomacy”, with the parallel detention in China of two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor. After nearly three years of proceedings, Meng Wanzhou was finally released at the end of September 2021 and returned to China. And the two Canadians were released in stride.
A “regrettable political decision”
Beijing expressed its dissatisfaction on Friday. “Despite the absence of any conclusive evidence, Canada has excluded these Chinese companies from the Canadian market using the pretext of alleged security risks, which are baseless,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the diplomacy. Chinese. “China strongly opposes” this decision, he added to the press, assuring that his country would take “all necessary measures” to defend Chinese companies.
Huawei Canada, for its part, said it was “disappointed” by this “regrettable political decision”, according to a press release. In 13 years of activity of the group in the country, the company’s equipment has been “closely examined” by the Canadian services and “there have been no security incidents”, underlines the company. “We will do everything in our power to protect the legitimate rights and interests of our customers, our partners and ourselves. »
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