- Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, breaking years of silence, has denied charges that his company spies on behalf of China.
- Huawei is the second-biggest smartphone maker after Samsung and also provides core telecommunications kit to countries around the world.
- Ren’s daughter Meng Wanzhou is Huawei’s chief financial officer, who was arrested in Canada at the behest of US authorities in December.
- The press-shy founder said he missed his daughter and said justice would prevail.
- Huawei is under unprecedented scrutiny over allegations against Meng involving Iran and thanks to the US-China trade war.
Ren Zhengfei, the press-shy founder of the Chinese electronics giant Huawei, broke years of public silence on Tuesday, telling reporters that he missed his daughter Meng Wanzhou “very much” and denying any wrongdoing by his company.
Meng is Huawei’s chief financial officer, and she is being detained in Canada at the request of the US. Authorities have accused Huawei of violating US sanctions by doing business with Iran, a charge Meng has denied.
Ren, despite his prominent position, is fairly reclusive. He held a press conference with reporters in Shenzhen on Tuesday where he denied suggestions that Huawei spied on behalf of the Chinese government. It was his first time speaking with the international media since 2015.
According to the Financial Times, he said Huawei had “never received any request from any government to provide improper information.”
“I still love my country, I support the Communist Party, but I will never do anything to harm any country in the world,” he said.
According to The Wall Street Journal, he added: “I personally would never harm the interest of my customers and me and my company would not answer to such requests.”
He said justice would prevail in the case of his daughter.
US lawmakers have been fretting about Huawei for years
Huawei is best known to consumers as the second-biggest maker of smartphones behind Samsung, but its core business is in providing telecommunications infrastructure to mobile companies around the world.
It is one of the most successful companies in China, but US politicians worry that the telecommunications kit it sells to mobile companies is compromised, allowing the Chinese government to spy on US communications. The company has always denied this.
US President Donald Trump’s trade war has escalated general tensions with China, and the arrest of Meng in December has only compounded the issue.
The case against Meng centres on two companies operating in Iran: the equipment seller Skycom and the shell company Canicula Holdings. Authorities claim that Meng tricked banks into clearing transactions with these two firms in violation of US sanctions on Iran by claiming they were independent of Huawei. But Reuters uncovered in documents earlier in January showing that Huawei was closely linked to both firms.
Just two days ago, Huawei fired an executive who had been charged with spying in Poland.
“Huawei is only a sesame seed in the trade conflict between China and the US,” Bloomberg reported Ren as saying.
Ren stepped back from day-to-day operations at Huawei in 2011, and the company is now run by executives who change roles every few months. His daughter replaced him as vice chairman in March.