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Canada Huawei and Canada: The story so far of the Chinese company, Meng Wanzhou’s case and a global political feud

Dec. 7, 2018: In this courtroom sketch, Meng Wanzhou, far left, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, sits beside a translator during a bail hearing at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. Her arrest and extradition case is one of several fronts in a legal and political battle involving Canada, China and the United States over the telecom giant.

Jane Wolsak/The Canadian Press

The latest

  • Meng Wanzhou’s lawyers made their case to the federal Justice Minister on Monday to intervene personally and stop the extradition process against the Huawei executive. In a three-page news release, the lawyers said they wrote to David Lametti that the case was “palpably” political and that “the factual and legal underpinnings for Ms. Meng’s extradition are without precedent in Canadian law.”
  • Another proponent of cancelling the extradition is former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who floated the idea to business executives earlier this month, according to sources knowledgeable about those conversations who spoke with The Globe and Mail. He argued that doing so would help free two Canadians jailed in retailation for Ms. Meng’s arrest. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland rejected Mr. Chrétien’s plan, saying it would set a dangerous precedent.
  • U.S. prosecutors want to try Ms. Meng for fraud, based on allegations that she and Huawei lied to financial institutions to circumvent sanctions on Iran. Lawyers for Ms. Meng, who denies the allegations, have delayed her Canadian extradition hearing until after the end of September, when a separate hearing will judge whether more evidence needs to be disclosed by the Crown.
  • Canada has been under mounting pressure to follow other Five Eyes intelligence allies and blacklist Huawei for its 5G wireless networks, which the U.S. and Australia fear could be used for cyber-espionage. Canada has said it won’t be rushed on that decision. An opinion poll commissioned by The Globe and Mail showed most Canadians are in favour of such a ban.


What is Huawei?

Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is a Chinese telecommunications company founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei. Based in Shenzhen, it has 180,000 employees and creates such products as smartphones, tablet computers, mobile and fixed broadband networks. Its products account for a sizeable chunk of the global smartphone market.

While its market share in Canada – where it has operated since 2008 – is still small, its presence here has grown dramatically over the years. Here’s a deeper look by The Globe and Mail’s Susan Krashinsky Robertson and Joe Castaldo at how Huawei built its brand in this country.

top 5 smartphone companies

market share

Q3 2018

World

Canada

Samsung

20.3%

49.6%

Apple

Huawei

14.6%

Apple

13.2%

Xiaomi

9.7%

30.8%

Samsung

OPPO

8.4%

Other

33.8%

LG: 6.5%

Huawei: 3.8%

TCL: 3.4%

Other: 5.9%

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: idc

top 5 smartphone companies market share

Q3 2018

World

Canada

Samsung

20.3%

49.6%

Apple

Huawei

14.6%

Apple

13.2%

Xiaomi

9.7%

30.8%

Samsung

OPPO

8.4%

Other

33.8%

LG: 6.5%

Huawei: 3.8%

TCL: 3.4%

Other: 5.9%

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: idc

top 5 smartphone companies market share

Q3 2018

World

Samsung

Huawei

Apple

Xiaomi

OPPO

Other

20.3%

14.6%

13.2%

9.7%

8.4%

33.8%

Canada

Apple

Samsung

LG: 6.5%

Huawei: 3.8%

49.6%

30.8%

TCL: 3.4%

Other: 5.9%

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: idc

What is Canada’s connection?

CHINA STRINGER NETWORK/Reuters

A Globe and Mail investigation published last spring revealed Huawei has established a vast network of relationships with Canadian universities to create a steady pipeline of intellectual property to aid in the development of next-generation 5G mobile networks. Around the same time, members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance were warning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the national security risks posed by Huawei’s technology.

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Following The Globe’s report, Mr. Trudeau was urged to gather security agencies and top policy makers to determine the security threat and economic cost of transferring Canadian intellectual property to Huawei. Since then, other critics have added their voices to those expressing concern, including U.S. lawmakers and senators. In September, the government launched a national-security analysis to minimize cyber threats to the country from equipment made by foreign telecommunications companies, including Huawei.

But the federal government eventually backed away from previous assurances that Canadian security agencies were capable of containing any cyberespionage threat and said it is not ruling out barring Huawei from supplying equipment for Canada’s 5G mobile networks. Canadian telcos BCE and Telus are hoping that Huawei’s entry into the 5G market will go ahead so they can use their technology on their own networks.

What are the concerns with Huawei’s 5G technology?

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Huawei has been working on advanced security technology together with the Public Security Bureau in China’s far western Xinjiang region, which is becoming a pilot zone for advanced new surveillance and population-control techniques. Chinese authorities have spent heavily to build Xinjiang into a test bed for the use of facial recognition, digital monitoring and artificial intelligence in policing.

Chinese law requires companies in China to “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work” as requested by Beijing. Researchers worry about how technologies developed for authoritarian purposes in China could be brought into other countries under different guises, while U.S. spymasters say Huawei’s equipment could be used to conduct undetected espionage through wireless networks, especially with the next generation of 5G technology. The United States and Australia have barred Huawei 5G telecommunications.

Who is Meng Wanzhou?

HANDOUT/Reuters

Meng Wanzhou, 47, is the chief financial officer of the company founded by her father, Mr. Ren. Her rise to success has been as meteoric as Huawei’s; she was a high-school dropout in 1993 when she started there as a secretary, but now she is its chief financial officer. She is also effectively the global face of the company, appearing on panels with titans of industry and travelling around the world to bolster Huawei’s image amid concerns about its technology.

On Dec. 1, 2018, Ms. Meng was arrested in British Columbia by Canadian authorities acting behalf of U.S. investigators. They accuse her of fraud in a scheme to violate American trade sanctions against Iran, which she denies. She’s also suing the RCMP and Canadian Border Service Agency for what she says were violations of her constitutional rights during her arrest. She is currently free on $10-million bail in British Columbia, kept under 24/7 surveillance and ordered to stay in the Vancouver area.

The United States formally requested Ms. Meng’s extradition on Jan. 29. Once Canadian Justice Department’s International Assistance Force receives such a request, it has 30 days to decide if it’s valid under the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty, which the Justice Department did on March 1. Eventually, a Superior Court judge will hear the case, but Ms. Meng’s lawyers successfully delayed that until after September, when they’ll argue at a separate hearing that key evidence has been withheld from them by prosecutors. Ultimately, the decision about extradition lies with David Lametti, Canada’s recently appointed federal Justice Minister.

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How do Iran sanctions factor in?

Since at least 2016, U.S. authorities have been reviewing Huawei’s alleged shipping of U.S.-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of American export and sanctions laws. Those sanctions are at the heart of the case against Ms. Meng: U.S. prosecutors allege that Huawei was accessing Iran through a Hong Kong company called Skycom, which the prosecutors consider to be a subsidiary of Huawei. The U.S. Justice Department’s full indictment allege that Ms. Meng committed fraud in 2013 by telling financial institutions that they were separate entities, and that Huawei and its subsidiaries committed obstruction of justice and money laundering to hide their activities. Ms. Meng denies this: In B.C. court, her lawyers have argued that while Huawei did own Skycom between 2008 and 2009, it divested from it.

The U.S. Justice Department probe, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, follows a series of actions aimed at stopping or reducing access by Huawei and Chinese smartphone maker ZTE Corp. to the U.S. economy amid allegations the companies could be using their technology to spy on Americans. The probe is reportedly being run out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, the Wall Street Journal sources said. However, the prosecutor’s office declined to confirm or deny the existence of the investigation.

Canadians detained in China

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor.

The Associated Press

Only days after Ms. Meng’s arrest, and after Beijing threatened “serious consequences” if Ms. Meng was not released, two Canadians were detained in China in apparent retaliation. China’s foreign ministry says both men – former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor – are being held on suspicion of endangering national security. On March 3, days after Canada authorized Ms. Meng’s extradition hearing, China revealed more about its allegations against the two men, saying Mr. Kovrig had worked to steal state secrets, in part with information Mr. Spavor gave him. “Mr. Kovrig’s actions, including stealing and spying on state secrets and foreign intelligence, have seriously violated Chinese law,” said the report on a Chinese Communist Party-controlled website.

Other Canadians have been detained or tried in China since Ms. Meng’s arrest. While their cases are not directly connected to hers, the tensions between Beijing and Ottawa have inflamed political rhetoric surrounding questions of Chinese justice. On Jan. 14, for instance, a Chinese court sentenced Canadian Robert Schellenberg, 36, to death after finding him guilty of drug trafficking. Mr. Trudeau openly criticized China for “arbitrarily” applying capital punishment, and China’s foreign ministry replied by telling him to “stop making such irresponsible remarks.”

U.S. vs. China, and Canada in the middle

Canadians have grown accustomed to a warm reception in China, which still lionizes Norman Bethune, the Ontario-born doctor who helped Mao Zedong’s Communists in the 1930s. But the arrest of Ms. Meng has infuriated China and sown fear among Canadians living in the country that, after Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor’s detention, they might be next.

Initially, China faulted both Canada and the United States for Ms. Meng’s arrest, but later its foreign ministry and state press focused their attention on Canada specifically. That has called into question Canada’s stated goal of pursuing a trade deal with China. As for the Americans, their relationship with Beijing has been rocky recently because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade policies targeting Chinese businesses. After months of escalating retaliatory tariffs, the two countries reached a fragile truce last December, but tensions rose again when the U.S. Commerce Department blocked U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei. Canada has said it will not be rushed into following suit.

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Another political casualty of the Meng case is John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, who told Chinese-language media on Jan. 22 that she had compelling arguments to avoid extradition, given Mr. Trump’s remarks on the case. He was widely condemned by ex-diplomats and opposition parties for undermining Canada’s position, and four days after making those remarks, the Prime Minister fired him. For now, Canada is being represented in China by Jim Nickel, a veteran diplomat who had previously been deputy head of mission in Beijing.

Further reading

Features

How does extradition to the U.S. work? A look at what may be next for arrested Huawei executive

The Huawei saga has further damaged the myth of Chinese invincibility

How Canadian money and research are helping China become a global telecom superpower

How 5G will change your life

Opinion

Wesley Wark: Canada shouldn’t jump on the Huawei ban-wagon

Konrad Yakabuski: Australia – caught between the U.S. and China – has banned Huawei. Why can’t Canada?

Doug Saunders: How the Huawei crisis has exploded Trudeau’s China policy

Campbell Clark: Canada-China relations will continue to fester

Richard Fadden: For the security of Canadians, Huawei should be banned from our 5G networks

Jeffrey D. Sachs: The U.S., not China, is the real threat to international rule of law

Robert J. Currie: On the Huawei extradition case, Canada’s legal system better stand up to scrutiny

John Ibbitson: Canada will pay a price no matter what for its part in the worsening U.S.-China conflict

Wenren Jiang: After Huawei arrest, China should take a deep breath and wait for the evidence



Compiled by Globe staff

With reports from Robert Fife, Nathan VanderKlippe, Steven Chase, Sean Silcoff and Christine Dobby

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If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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