Conservative Party leadership candidate Jean Charest says he would ban Huawei from participating in Canada’s 5G wireless networks if he becomes leader, staying in line with his party’s position.
Speaking at a Calgary event on March 10, where he announced his leadership bid, the former Quebec premier and deputy prime minister of Canada added that he is “very proud” of his work advising the Chinese telecom giant.
In an interview with CBC’s Vassy Kapelos on March 18, Charest said his work with Huawei never contradicted Canada’s national interest. He did not directly respond to Kapelos when she asked whether he had regarded the Chinese company as a national security threat to Canada at the time.
“Any of the work I did was never in contradiction with the national interest of Canada. I would not have accepted to do that. And and that’s the way that I’ve conducted myself ever since I’ve left office,” he said.
“The position that you have just reported is my position as a leader of the Conservative Party and a prime minister of Canada. And when I’m in that job, I’m representing the interest of Canada, period, period, full stop, period.”
Charest later reiterated that point in a Twitter post, saying that “We’re going to ban Huawei,” the position of the Conservative Party that he said he will defend.
— Jean Charest (@JeanCharest_) March 19, 2022
Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Vancouver in December 2018 at the request of the United States on fraud charges related to the violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Shortly after her arrest, the Chinese regime arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens—Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor—who were held in Chinese prisons for over 1,000 days in what was widely interpreted as Beijing’s use of “hostage diplomacy” in retaliation against Ottawa.
Charest said he worked to free the two men, adding that he has been vocal in criticizing the communist regime for their arrests.
“I’m proud of having done that work. And that was in the interest, of course, to individuals who were the victims of a government-sanctioned kidnapping—and there’s no other way of saying it. And I’m proud of having done that work and and bringing them back home,” he said.
“I never shied away from criticizing the government of China in the last few years, no matter what I was doing. And I’ve done it publicly,” he noted. “So I think Canadians can be reassured that in the end, whatever it is, I’m going to stand up for Canada and the basic core interests of our country.”
The two Michaels were released by the communist regime on Sept. 24, 2021, after Meng reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department earlier that day. That development prompted a Canadian court to lift her bail conditions, allowing her to fly home to China that afternoon.
The Globe’s report also revealed that Charest’s service to Huawei as a partner at the law firm went beyond Meng’s case. He also counselled the Chinese company in its bid for approval to sell equipment to Canada for the construction of the country’s 5G networks, engagement that raises concerns over national security threats from Beijing.
“Huawei has a very dubious past, starting with its founder, who is a former military officer,” Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former chief of Asia-Pacific for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), told The Epoch Times in a previous interview.
Ren, founder and current president of Huawei, was a director of the People’s Liberation Army, which is the attack force of the Chinese Communist Party.
Concerns over security threats from Huawei have resonated in the international intelligence community. The U.S. government has also urged its allies to exclude the company from the West’s next-generation communications network, saying that Beijing could potentially use Huawei’s technology for espionage purposes.
Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, senior fellow at the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa, posted a tweet in response to Charest’s interview with CBC, saying that his work with Huawei was heavily tilted in the benefit of the Chinese company and Meng.
“1. His job for Huawei in the first instance was to get Meng sent home. Persuading the [Canadian government] could benefit the Michaels but they weren’t the prime concern. 2. It’s clear from the answer that the candidate would adopt the party policy if he wins but it’s not HIS position,” she wrote in a Twitter post on March 19.
Conservative Senator Leo Housakos also questioned Charest’s work with Huawei.
“Will Jean Charest refund the fees he received from Huawei in return for promoting its interests in Canada?” he wrote in a Twitter post on March 19. Housakos is part of the campaign team for Pierre Poilievre, Charest’s rival in the Tory leadership race.
Issac Teo and Rahul Vaidyanath contributed to this article.