The Current

Concerns percolating over Huawei's 'leverage' over Canadian cybersecurity

The arrest of tech executive Meng Wanzhou is underlining worries that her company, Huawei, could use its position in Canada as a means for espionage or retaliation against the government.

Arrest of exec Meng Wanzhou underlines worries about Huawei’s ability to spy for China

The arrest of Huawei's CFO Meng Wanzhou is just the latest controversy to hit the telecommunications company. (Luis Gene/AFP/Getty Images)

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Lurking in the background of the arrest of Chinese tech exec Meng Wanzhou are concerns about whether her company, Huawei, could compromise Canadian cybersecurity as it helps bring in the next generation of 5G internet infrastructure. 

"There's concern over the amount of leverage you actually want to give an adversarial state such as China over your state's critical infrastructure," said Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor at Carleton University and former national security analyst with the federal government.

Wanzhou was detained on Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver, for allegedly evading U.S. trade curbs on Iran.

The arrest has thrust Huawei, a telecommunications giant previously accused of conducting espionage activities for the Chinese government, into the spotlight.

Though the company denies being a vehicle for surveillance, countries like New Zealand and Australia have banned Huawei from some projects.

But Wenran Jiang, a senior fellow at the University of British Columbia's school of public policy and global affairs, offers words of caution. 

"[There is] no evidence whatsoever so far Huawei has done anything illegal," he said. "The concern about Huawei is not about what Huawei does, but what Huawei is, and what China is." 

To discuss the cyber security concerns around Huawei and 5G, The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti spoke to:

  • Louise Matsakis, writer for Wired magazine
  • Wenran Jiang, senior fellow at the University of British Columbia's School of Public Policy and Global Affairs
  • Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University and a former national security analyst with the government of Canada

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by ​John Chipman, Danielle Carr and Cameron Perrier.