On Friday Canadian Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced a ban on 5G networking technology from Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE on grounds that the hardware poses a threat to national security.
“We intend to exclude Huawei and ZTE from our 5G networks. Providers who already have this equipment installed will be required to cease its use and remove it under the plans we’re announcing today,” Champagne told reporters.
Champagne set a deadline of June 2024 for Canadian companies to remove all Huawei and ZTE 5G equipment and December 2027 to remove 4G hardware. He said the decision was made with care after an extensive review.
“We’ll take any actions necessary to safeguard our telecommunications infrastructure,” Champagne declared.
Chinese 5G hardware is already banned by the other four members of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network — the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
The U.S. banned Huawei networking equipment in 2012 and effectively excluded the company from all communications networks in 2019. The United Kingdom eliminated new installations of Huawei equipment in November 2020. Several allied nations, such as Sweden and Japan, have implemented bans, while many European countries imposed restrictions on the use of Chinese networking hardware without banning it outright.
Canada began reviewing security threats from Huawei equipment in September 2018, three months before Canadian relations with China were soured by the arrest of Huawei executive and Chinese Communist Party royalty Meng Wanzhou, who faced charges of sanctions-busting and fraud in the United States.
Following the arrest, China took several Canadians hostage and launched a series of retaliatory measures against Canada to secure Meng’s freedom. In September 2021, the Biden Justice Department dropped the charges against Meng, allowing her to walk free; China released its Canadian hostages on the same day.
China’s relationship with Canada appeared to be on the mend after Meng was released from house arrest, but the Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted with fury to Champagne’s announcement of the Huawei and ZTE bans.
China’s state-run Global Times on Friday reported the Foreign Ministry’s vow to take “all necessary measures” against Canada’s ban, which allegedly “violates market economy and free trade rules and grossly damages the rights and interests of Chinese firms,” according to spokesman Wang Wenbin.
The Global Times denounced the Canadians as ingrates for banning Chinese electronics “on the heels of a gesture of goodwill from China which lifted a three-year ban on Canadian canola seeds.”
The Canadian ban is an “unwise action” that reveals Ottawa is merely a “political pawn of the U.S.,” according to the Chinese propagandists.
The Chinese embassy in Canada insisted Huawei and ZTE “have always kept very good cybersecurity records.”
“Canada’s decision to exclude relevant Chinese firms from its market without any conclusive evidence and on so-called national security grounds is seriously generalizing the concept of national security,” the embassy said – a somewhat amusing complaint from the embassy of a brutal tyranny that loves abusing “national security” as an excuse to crush dissent in places like Hong Kong.
“This is an unfortunate political decision that has nothing to do with cyber security or any of the technologies in question,” Huawei said in a statement on Friday.
“Banning Huawei’s equipment and services will lead to significant economic loss in Canada and drive up the cost of communications for Canadian consumers,” the company warned.
“We’ve been expecting this for three years. We’re disappointed by the outcome, but what the government announced is the intent to introduce legislation, but right now there is no prohibition on the book for selling Huawei equipment,” Alykhan Velshi, Huawei’s vice president of corporate affairs for the Americas, told Canadian media.
“It’s for the government to provide evidence that Huawei is a national security threat as they claim, they have not done so,” Velshi said.
ZTE likewise denounced Canada’s ban on its products as “highly speculative.”
“We have always abided by international standards and best practices, opening up our cyber security labs to enable regulators and stakeholders to verify the security of ZTE products,” the company said.
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