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Trade war

Huawei founder breaks silence to dismiss claims of spying by company

Ren Zhengfei speaks out after arrest of his daughter in Canada

SHENZHEN, China (Financial Times) -- Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei hit back at claims that his company is used by the Chinese government for spying, using a rare meeting with the media to make the case that his daughter should be released from jail in Canada.

Mr Ren was speaking to journalists in Shenzhen on Tuesday after Meng Wanzhou, his daughter and Huawei's chief financial officer, was arrested in Vancouver in December. Ms Meng faces extradition to the US on allegations that Huawei sold US-made equipment to Iran.

The reclusive former Chinese army officer said Huawei had "never received any request from any government to provide improper information" and missed his daughter "very much".

"I still love my country, I support the Communist party, but I will never do anything to harm any country in the world," he said, echoing earlier dismissals of allegations that Huawei was involved in espionage.

Ms Meng's detention came against a backdrop of heightened international concern over Huawei's alleged links to the Chinese government, and amid broader US angst over China's rising technology capabilities. Several countries, including the UK, Australia and the US, have tightened oversight of the company and in some cases blocked its involvement in building the 5G next generation telecoms networks.

Last week, a Huawei executive was arrested in Poland on allegations of spying for China's secret service. Huawei subsequently fired the employee.

In an overture to Donald Trump, who has said he would be willing to intervene in Ms Meng's case to secure a trade deal with China, Mr Ren described the US president as "great", and noted that his tax cuts had been good for American industry.

"The message to the US I want to communicate is: collaboration and shared success. In our world of high tech, it's increasingly impossible for any single company or country to sustain or to support the world's needs," Mr Ren said.

In response to fears over the security of Huawei's equipment, Mr Ren said "no law in China requires any company to install mandatory backdoors". He added that the company has had "no serious security incident".

Mr Ren also downplayed the risk Huawei faced from being blocked from the rollout of 5G by some countries.

"It's always been the case, you can't work with everyone ...we'll shift our focus to better serve countries that welcome Huawei," he said, adding that the company had 30 contracts globally to build 5G networks.

Seeking to shed some light on Huawei's opaque ownership, Mr Ren said he owned 1.14 per cent of the company's shares.

Ms Meng's arrest also sparked a sharp backlash from Beijing. Chinese officials have since detained at least two Canadian citizens and just this week a Canadian man convicted of drug smuggling was sentenced to death by a Chinese court, overturning a previous 15-year sentence.

Mr Ren maintained that the alleged Chinese hacking of the African Union headquarters, revealed last year, had "nothing to do with Huawei".

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