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Huawei executive shakes off campaign to 'harm' company

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Beijing (AFP)

A senior Huawei executive Thursday accused politicians abroad of trying to "harm" the Chinese telecom giant, boasting of the company's stellar year despite concerns over the firm's ties to Beijing.

The world's second-largest smartphone maker and biggest producer of telecommunications gear has been under fire in recent months with the arrests of a top executive in Canada and an employee in Poland, along with a worldwide campaign by Washington to blacklist its equipment.

Several Western nations have voiced fears that using Huawei base stations and other gear could give Chinese authorities access to critical network infrastructure worldwide, possibly allowing it to spy on foreign governments.

"They think they can perhaps impact us with the noise and harm us, but we have a very good reputation, a very good reputation," said Richard Yu, head of Huawei's consumer business and executive director of the board.

"Some political guys are trying to influence and slow us down, but we are doing very well," Yu said.

Huawei last year cemented its place as one of the world's top smartphone vendors after selling 206 million handsets globally, part of the 350 million smart devices it sold.

Its consumer facing business has overtaken its telecom gear in size, Yu said, noting growth of about 50 percent last year brought revenue to more than $52 billion.

"Maybe I'm not humble but I say we are the best," Yu told reporters.

Shrugging off security concerns, Huawei rolled out its next generation 5G chips on Thursday, with plans to unveil 5G smartphones at the World Mobile Conference in Barcelona next month.

Mobile operators have begun to roll out their 5G networks -- technology that promises nearly instantaneous transfers of huge amounts of data, allowing for self-driving cars or remotely accessed sensors in an array of consumer and health products.

Huawei has invested billions of dollars in the technology, competing mainly against Sweden's Ericsson and Finland's Nokia.

- Western fears -

Huawei has dismissed concerns its 5G network would be vulnerable to Chinese government spying.

The firm has never received any request from Beijing to turn over information and would refuse any such request, Yu said.

He brushed aside suggestions the growing movement against Huwawei or the US-China trade war could hold the company back.

The firm swiftly sacked an employee arrested this month in Poland on suspicion of spying for China.

Last month Canada arrested Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.

Chinese authorities then detained two Canadian citizens -- a former diplomat and a business consultant -- on suspicion of endangering national security soon after Meng's arrest in a move widely seen as retaliation.

Then authorities revisited the little-known case of Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November for drug offences. He was sentenced to death in a hastily arranged retrial.

Asked if China's aggressive efforts and lobbying on Huawei's behalf helped the company show its distance from Beijing, Yu demurred.

"It's not convenient for me to answer this question," he said.

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