Chinese company Huawei says Conservative leadership hopeful Jean Charest focused predominantly on the company’s participation in Canada’s 5G networks during in his work for the telecom. He involvement did not centre on the extradition case involving Meng Wanzhou.
Further, the company will not be wading into the Conservative leadership contest, says Alykhan Velshi, a former conservative strategist and the telecom’s vice president of corporate affairs in Canada.
Huawei has received a “number of questions” about Charest’s past work for the telecom. Velshi clarified it in a statement to Global News.
“Huawei is grateful to Jean Charest and the team at (law firm) McCarthy Tetrault for their loyal advice and support since mid-2019. The firm’s strategic support has mainly focused on 5G and the Canadian business-regulatory environment,” Velshi wrote in a statement.
“That said, in addition to 5G, they have supported Huawei on the full range of issues facing the company, and at times this has included limited assistance on the extradition issue.”
The Conservatives have been advocating for years that Huawei should be banned from Canada’s telecommunication networks on national security grounds. It provokes strong emotions from Tory partisans.As a result, Charest’s involvement has become an issue in his leadership bid.
His involvement was first aired during the party’s 2020 leadership race, when Charest was considering a bid. He declined to enter that race.
The Chinese telecom has been severely restricted from participating in future 5G wireless networks by some of Canada’s closest security partners due to fears that Beijing could require the company to conduct surveillance, and steal secrets.
Huawei has denied those allegations, even though the company’s closeness with Beijing and apparent willingness to carry out surveillance has been well documented by the press.
The Liberal government has repeatedly delayed a decision regarding Huawei’s participation in Canadian 5G networks. Meanwhile, Canada’s three major telecom companies have announced they would move ahead with different technology. Though, there is plenty of existing Huawei cell tower equipment in operation across the country.
Asked about his previous work for the telecom at an event in Alberta Thursday night, Charest suggested that his work helped secure the release of the ‘Two Michaels’ — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were detained by Chinese authorities on national security grounds shortly after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver in 2018, and faced extradition to the U.S. to face fraud charges. The arrest of the Two Michaels was widely seen as retaliation. They were released shortly after Meng reached a deal to allow her to travel back to Beijing.
“What we did in Huawei, I’m very proud of what we did, in helping to sort out the situation of Ms. Meng Wanzhou. And I worked with the family of Michael Kovrig so that we could free the Two Michaels,” Charest said.
“We worked with them very, very closely throughout the whole process. And I never did anything, and would have never done anything that would have been contrary to the interest of my country. So in fact, we were very, very active in helping resolve that matter to bring the Two Michaels home.”
Asked about the discrepancy between Charest’s comments and Huawei’s statement on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Charest said he’s “proud of having worked with the family of Michael Kovrig in the release of the two Michaels.”
“Mr. Charest will uphold the position of the Conservative Party of Canada that proposes to ban Huawei from 5G and will also order a national security review of all strategic natural resources and telecom infrastructure projects based on changing geopolitical realities to protect Canada’s national security interests,” wrote Michelle Coates Mather in a statement from the campaign.
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