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Wednesday, 16 January 2019 05:12

Huawei founder claims no user data will be given to govt Featured

Huawei founder claims no user data will be given to govt Pixabay

Huawei chief executive and founder Ren Zhengfei says the company will under no circumstances allow the Chinese Government to access customer data.

During a media conference in Shenzhen on Tuesday, Ren sought to address concerns raised by the US that has repeatedly claimed the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant could allow the government a backdoor into a country's communication systems. (Full transcript here.)

Ren said: "The first point I want to make is that over the past 30 years, our products have been used in more than 170 countries and regions, serving more than three billion users in total.

"We have maintained a solid track record in security. Huawei is an independent business organisation. When it comes to cyber security and privacy protection, we are committed to siding with our customers. We will never harm any nation or any individual.

"Secondly, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has officially clarified that no law in China requires any company to install backdoors. Neither Huawei, nor I personally, have ever received any requests from any government to provide improper information."

The US has banned the use of Huawei equipment in its 5G networks, claiming that the company can be a conduit for spying by Beijing. Australia and New Zealand have both followed the US lead and banned the company from roles in their respective 5G rollouts.

Apart from the pressure on the company over 5G, its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, Ren's daughter, was arrested in Canada last month following on a request from the US, which claims she has been involved in breaking American sanctions on shipping US-made equipment to Iran.

Asked about the arrest of his daughter, Ren said: "As you must be aware, the case... right now is in legal proceedings. So, we'd rather leave it to legal proceedings." He offered a similar response when asked about an employee in the company's Poland office who had been arrested for allegedly spying and subsequently dismissed by Huawei.

When he was further asked whether the arrest of Meng was because she was part of his family, Ren responded: "You know, I certainly do not have access to the email correspondences between the American Department of Justice and the Canadian Department of Justice. Maybe in the future when they make this evidence public, I will see whether it is because Meng is my daughter that she is being targeted. We will wait to see more evidence that is made public in the proceedings that follow."

Asked whether Huawei had an channels for communicating with the US Government, Ren replied in the negative. "We don't have any channels for communicating with the US Government, and, honestly, we don't know much about each other."

Regarding the structure of Huawei, Ren was asked why he did not take the company public so that the share holdings were made public.

He said: "Our shareholding employees are currently working at Huawei or are retired former employees who have worked at Huawei for years. There is no single individual that owns even one cent of Huawei's shares without working at Huawei. There is no external institution or government department that owns our shares, not even one cent's worth. We have a shareholding registry that lists the shares held by our shareholding employees. Journalists who are interested are welcome to take a look at it.

"I, myself, am the founder of this company. At the time when I wanted to found Huawei, I did not have enough money. When I got demobilised from the military, my wife and I received a total of 3000 yuan (US$444) as compensation from the military. At the time, a minimum of 20,000 yuan was required as registered capital to start a company in Shenzhen. By pooling funds from different people, I managed to get 21,000 yuan to register Huawei.

"Today, the total number of shares that I personally have within Huawei is 1.14%, and the stake that Steve Jobs had in Apple was 0.58%. That means there is still potential for my stake to be further diluted. I should learn from Steve Jobs."

He foresaw a difficult year ahead for the company, with revenue growth falling below 20%, adding that it was targeting US$125 billion for the year.

“In 2019 we might face challenges and difficulties in international markets. That is why I said ... our growth next year would be less than 20%," he added.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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