UPDATED 1:39 PM PT — Tuesday, January 15, 2018
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a reclusive billionaire, took the time recently to speak with foreign reporters for the first time since 2015.
The name Huawei has grown in notoriety over the last few months as the Chinese tech giant has come under increased scrutiny for its alleged ties to the Chinese government, and the push back against the use of its products by several world government agencies.
74-year-old Ren, a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army, told reporters he loves his country and supports the Communist Party, but would not do anything to harm the world.
“I don’t see a close connection between my personal political beliefs and the business of Huawei,” he stated.
Ren went on to say he would turn down any request from Beijing for sensitive information on his clients, rebuffing claims that Huawei equipment would allow a back-door for Chinese intelligence agencies to access sensitive information.
The Huawei founder took a moment to praise President Trump, calling him a “great president.” He went on to say the president dared to “massively cut taxes, which will benefit businesses.”
Ren said he’ll wait and see if the president will intervene on behalf of a Huawei executive detained in Canada. Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, has been under arrest in Canada since the beginning of December on an arrest warrant issued by the U.S. for possible Iran sanction violations. Meng is also Ren’s daughter.
The Chinese government has continued to call for Meng’s release, and are calling the arrest an abuse of legal powers.
“We hope the Canadian side can recognize the serious mistake it has made on the relevant issues and can acknowledge and correct the mistake as soon as possible,” stated Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “We urge Canada to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, who has been detained unreasonably.”
Ren also touched on the ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China, stressing potential cooperation between his company and the Trump administration. He added, Huawei is “only a sesame seed in the trade conflict.”
The tech company head has joined other Huawei executives in speaking with the media in recent weeks, denying allegations of espionage.
The company was dealt yet another blow earlier this month when an executive was arrested in Poland over allegations of spying, which may have prompted Ren’s willingness to break his silence. The employee was reportedly fired over the weekend.
Despite continued push-back and even outright banning of Huawei equipment by several agencies, Ren said he was confident revenue would reach $125 billion in 2019 — $25 billion more than last year. Huawei overtook Apple in smartphone sales in 2018, even as several carriers are shunning its equipment.