Politics

Chinese envoy to Canada warns of 'repercussions ' if Ottawa bans Huawei from 5G mobile phone network

China's envoy to Canada on Thursday warned Ottawa of possible repercussions if it banned technology firm Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment to Canadian 5G networks, the latest blast in a deepening bilateral dispute.

Freeland pledged to continue seeking allies support in China dispute despite warning

China's Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye is warning Ottawa against banning Huawei Technologies from participating in Canada's 5G networks. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

China's envoy to Canada on Thursday warned Ottawa of possible repercussions if it banned technology firm Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment to Canadian 5G networks, the latest blast in a deepening bilateral dispute.

Canada is currently studying the security implications of 5G networks, but unlike some allies has not announced a ban on Huawei equipment.

"I believe there will be repercussions" if Huawei were to be banned, Ambassador Lu Shaye said through an interpeter at a news conference at the Chinese embassy in Ottawa. He urged Ottawa to make a "wise" decision but did not provide details about what the "repercussions" would be.

In a rare interview with Canadian journalists, Lu also told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to back off recruiting international support in Canada's feud with China. He said it would be a bad idea for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to use the upcoming World Economic Forum summit in Davos to press that case.

Davos "is a place for discussions on economic issues and we hope that issues other than economic ones should not be talked about at the Davos forum," Lu said through a translator.  

"If Canada has a sincerity in solving these issues, Canada will not do such things. We hope Canada will think twice before making any actions."

Relations between China and Canada turned frosty last month after Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, on a U.S. extradition request.

China subsequently detained two Canadian citizens, businessman Michael Spavor, and Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave to work for an NGO based in China. 

Chinese ambassador, Lu Shaye, warns there may be "repercussions" if Canada bans Huawei from its 5G network

Ambassador Lu Shaye spoke reporters at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa 0:51

Lu appeared far from the Canadian position on Thursday saying that the arrests of Spavor and Kovrig were legal and just while the arrest of Meng was exactly the opposite. 

"The detention of Ms. Meng is groundless because she did not violate any Canadian law. But on the other hand, the detention of the two Canadian nationals were due to their suspicion of engagement in activities that endanger Chinese national security," Lu said.

Earlier this month a Chinese court retried Canadian Robert Schellenberg for his role in the smuggling of 222 kilograms of methamphetamines. Schellenberg had previously been found guilty of drug smuggling and sentenced to a 15-year jail term, at the retrial he was sentenced to death.

In the wake of that ruling Trudeau accused Beijing of arbitrarily using the death penalty and called world leaders to solicit their support.

Continue to seek support from allies

Speaking in Sherbrooke, Que., Freeland dismissed the warning not to press Canada's case with international allies, insisting that her government would continue to defend its citizens.

"Canada has been, since the very beginning, very clear in our support for Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor," she said. "In the case of Mr. Schellenberg, it is a long-standing position of the government of Canada to object to the use of the death penalty.

"We object to it in principle anywhere, and we particularly object to it when it is threatened to be used against a Canadian and we will continue to work hard for these three Canadians."

She added that she would continue to make it clear that the arbitrary detentions of Kovrig and Spavor are wrong and they should be released immediately. 

"That is something Canada has been saying for some time and we are going to continue to work hard on this case," she said. 

Freeland said the decision on 5G "is being studied carefully by our security officials and by the government and is under serious consideration."

Chrystia Freeland says Canada will continue to seek support of allies despite China's warning:

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she will continue to see support from Canada's allies in its dispute with China despite warnings from the Chinese ambassador to Canada to not to do so. 1:12

Irwin Cotler, the founder of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, took China to task for characterizing Canada's arrest of Meng as "vile, unconscionable and evil."

"These words define and describe China's hostage diplomacy ever since — including its detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and the arbitrarily cruel death sentence of Robert Schellenberg," Cotler said in an email to The Canadian Press.

"But nothing exposes and unmasks China's contempt for the rule of law, in China as well as in Canada, and its own 'vile, unconscionable and evil' conduct than its cruel and inhumane treatment of Ti-Anna Wang and her infant daughter," Cotler said.

Last week, Wang arrived in southern China where her father, Wang Bingzhang — considered to be the father of China's ill-fated international pro-democracy movement — has been jailed since Chinese agents snatched him in Vietnam in 2002 and hauled him back.

China has consistently denied Wang's attempts to visit her father for almost a decade, as his health has been declining.

In August, Wang was given a fresh Chinese visa, but when she arrived in southern China last week with her husband and 11-month-old daughter, she was turned away after a six-hour airport ordeal. She was sent back to South Korea, where she had been visiting her husband's family.

Technology concern

Lu said economic relations between the two counties can be repaired and the current impasse could be resolved through negotiations. Any resolution, however, would be threatened, Lu said, should Canada ban Huawei Technologies from participating in Canada's new 5G network for security reasons.

Canada has said little about the review into 5G technology. A Canadian source directly familiar with the case said the study would not be released in the immediate future.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced bills that would ban the sale of U.S. chips or other components to Huawei, ZTE Corp. or other Chinese firms that violate U.S. sanctions or export control laws.

The bills specifically cite ZTE and Huawei, both of which are viewed with suspicion in the United States because of fears that their switches and other gear could be used to spy on Americans. Huawei is the world's biggest telecommunications equipment maker.

With files from CBC News and The Canadian Press

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