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Canada counters China threat of 'repercussions' if Huawei banned

A diplomatic row between Beijing and Ottawa began in December with the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer
A diplomatic row between Beijing and Ottawa began in December with the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer AFP/File
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Ottawa (AFP)

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Friday said Canada won't be browbeaten by Beijing as it mulls whether or not to ban Huawei equipment from new telecommunication networks.

His comments come after China's ambassador to Ottawa, Lu Shaye, on Thursday warned of "repercussions" if Canada joins intelligence-sharing allies in barring the Chinese telecom firm from its 5G cellular networks over security concerns.

Ottawa and Beijing are locked in a diplomatic row that began in early December with the arrest in Canada of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on US fraud charges related to alleged Iran sanctions violations.

"We've made abundantly clear that we will not compromise national security. We will take the appropriate analysis and take the decision ultimately that we believe to be in Canada's interest," Goodale said, adding that Ottawa "will not be deterred" by China's threats over 5G.

Fifth generation or 5G mobile networks promise a quantum leap in wireless communication speed, and will be key to developing the internet of things, including self-driving cars.

Several countries have followed Washington's call for a Huawei ban, but the picture in Europe is more nuanced because Huawei's 5G capabilities are well ahead of Sweden's Ericsson, Finland's Nokia and South Korea's Samsung, analysts say.

Goodale said Canada's evaluation of 5G continues.

"We are examining the security issues as well as the technical issues with a great deal of care," he said.

Goodale dismissed China's threat of retaliation, saying the same was made against Australia, for example, before it joined New Zealand and the United States in banning Huawei gear over its alleged links to Chinese intelligence services.

Last month, Britain's largest mobile provider BT said it would remove existing Huawei equipment, leaving Canada the only country in the "Five Eyes" intelligence network not to take steps against the Chinese firm.

Huawei's reclusive founder Ren Zhengfei stepped out of the shadows this week to give a rare media interview, forcefully denying accusations that his firm engaged in espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.

The company also fired a Chinese employee arrested in Poland on espionage allegations.

In October, Canada's spy agency urged top Canadian universities to be cautious about their extensive research relationships with Huawei.

Oxford University in Britain this week said it has decided to forgo further funding from the firm.

In a move observers see as retaliation for the Meng case, Chinese authorities detained two other Canadian citizens -- a former diplomat and a business consultant -- on suspicion of endangering national security.

A third Canadian was sentenced to death on Monday for drug trafficking, increasing an earlier 15-year prison term.

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