On Thursday, Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer (CFO) of Chinese tech company Huawei.
The details of the arrest are still unclear but Meng faces extradition to the United States, according to the Canadian Department of Justice.
Following the arrest, both the Chinese embassy, as well as Huawei called for the release of Meng, who is the daughter of the company’s founder Ren Zhengfei.
Under Ren’s leadership, Huawei has become one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the world and has established itself as a leading smartphone manufacturer.
But Huawei’s expansion from its Chinese roots into the rest of the world has sparked concerns among Western governments over the company’s close ties to the Chinese authorities, as well as its willingness to export technologies to countries that are under sanction.
Over the past couple of years, Huawei has reportedly circumvented sanctions imposed on North Korea and Iran, providing the countries with telecom equipment that can be used for extensive spying on populations, so-called dual use technologies.
But the vast majority of criticism has surrounded Huawei’s growing influence on global communications in the coming years. The Chinese company will provide technology for 5G wireless internet across the world.
Ahead of the rollout of that faster internet technology, several countries have warned against using Chinese hardware because of security concerns, which stem from the Chinese government’s use of Huawei’s products to spy on people around the world.
Huawei has denied all allegations that it might be involved in the collection of intelligence for the Chinese government.
So far, four countries have officially said they will not allow Huawei to take part in the 5G trials.
The US, China’s biggest competitor both in terms of economy, as well as global intelligence gathering, is afraid that China would have access to sensitive user information, such as location data, and that Chinese technologies could pose a possible threat to critical American infrastructure.
To prevent the Chinese telecom company from gaining too much traction in the US, lawmakers have urged wireless carrier AT&T to reconsider potential deals with Huawei.
In 2012, Huawei and ZTE Corp, another Chinese telecom company, were the subjects of an investigation that looked into whether their equipment could pose a threat to US interests.
That report by US Congress concluded that “Huawei did not fully cooperate with the investigation and was unwilling to explain its relationship with the Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party, while credible evidence exists that it fails to comply with US laws.”
Since then, the US has been on a mission to prevent its allies from using Huawei technology for critical infrastructure, especially focusing on fellow members of the so-called Five Eyes, a group of five English speaking countries (US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain) whose intelligence agencies share information on a large scale.
The US has also tried to dissuade other countries like Germany from allowing Huawei to provide technologies in the near future.
Australia, part of the Five Eyes group, banned Huawei from providing 5G technology in August of this year, but it did not specifically mention Huawei by name.
In a statement, the Australian government said companies “who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government” would no longer be allowed to provide 5G technology, which was clearly directed at the Chinese telecom company.
Beijing condemns US over ‘spying on Huawei’
Currently, Huawei is already providing Australia with its 4G network, but with the introduction of 5G, even more products will be connected to the internet in the near future.
Following Australia’s decision, Huawei said there was no fundamental difference between 4G and 5G architecture and that 5G provides better security for both privacy and security, adding that Australian allegations about security concerns were not based on facts.
In November, New Zealand announced it would take the same measures as Australia following a request by mobile carrier Spark to use Huawei equipment for its 5G networks.
The Government Communications Security Bureau intelligence agency denied that request because 5G technology inherently poses a bigger risk since its mobile internet and mobile phone capabilities are intertwined.
“I have informed Spark that a significant security risk was identified,” GCS Director-General Andrew Hampton said, without going into detail about those risks.
As the second most important member in the Five Eyes intelligence sharing group, Great Britain has been urged repeatedly by its allies to ban Huawei from its 5G infrastructure.
So far the United Kingdom has not officially done so, but its government is debating wether special measures should be taken.