Canada has no choice but to bar Huawei from 5G mobile networks, security experts say

OTTAWA — As the Liberal government prepares to unfurl its policy on next-generation mobile networks, global security experts say all signs point to the exclusion of Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies from the long-awaited blueprint.

The development of 5G, or fifth-generation, networks will give people speedier online connections and provide vast data capacity to meet ravenous demand as more and more things link to the internet and innovations such as virtual reality, immersive gaming and autonomous vehicles emerge.

The opposition Conservatives have long pressed the Liberals to deny Huawei a role in building the country’s 5G infrastructure, saying it would allow Beijing to spy on Canadians more easily.

Some contend Huawei’s participation could give it access to an array of digital information gleaned from how, when and where Canadian customers use internet-connected devices. In turn, the theory goes, Chinese security agencies could force the company to hand over the personal information.

These concerns flow from the fact China’s National Intelligence Law says Chinese organizations and citizens shall support, assist and co-operate with state intelligence work.

Huawei insists it is a fiercely independent company that does not engage in espionage for anyone, including Beijing.

“We sell in 180 countries around the world,” said Alykhan Velshi, Huawei Canada’s vice-president of corporate affairs. “We have to comply with the laws of each of those countries. And if we were to violate the trust, we would find ourselves only selling in one country.”

Regardless of whether Huawei poses a genuine security risk, the concerns have given rise to a general notion countries cannot afford to gamble on a telecommunications firm that is supported enthusiastically by Beijing, said Wesley Wark, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and a senior fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

“The company is just too closely aligned perceptually to the Chinese regime to allow western states to do anything else,” Wark said. “And they do have alternatives.”

Velshi said Huawei Canada hopes — and expects — that any decision the federal government makes on 5G policy will…