Canada to bar two Huawei workers over spying fears

Employees deny being spies, but telco has been repeatedly cited by US as espionage risk

VANCOUVER • Canada cited the risk of espionage as it prepares to reject the visa applications of two Chinese employees of mainland telecoms giant Huawei, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).

This will be the first of such cases to emerge amid accusations of international spying by the company.

In a letter obtained by SCMP, an immigration officer at Canada's Hong Kong consulate told one applicant in March: "There are reasonable grounds to believe that you are a member of the inadmissible class of persons described in Section 34(1)(f) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act."

This means that the applicant is said to belong to an organisation engaged in espionage, government subversion or terrorism.

A second applicant was told last month that the same concern existed about the employee's spouse, who was included in their immigration application, according to SCMP.

"After careful and thorough consideration… I am preparing to refuse your application," said both letters, which were provided to the Hong Kong newspaper by the applicants' immigration consultants, Beijing-based Well Trend United.

Huawei has repeatedly denied involvement in espionage. But in 2012, a US House intelligence committee deemed Huawei a threat to national security. The firm has been barred from bidding for US and Australian broadband projects.

Well Trend vice-president Victor Lum told SCMP that the two Huawei staff members "definitely and categorically" deny being spies.

Their applications - which were unrelated to each other - were lodged separately more than two years ago, said Mr Lum. But the letters arrived within days of each other, on March 18 and March 21.

Huawei, the world's third-biggest smartphone maker and a major provider of global telecommunications infrastructure, has been repeatedly cited by the United States as a Chinese espionage risk.

Huawei has repeatedly denied involvement in espionage. But in 2012, a US House intelligence committee deemed Huawei a threat to national security. The firm has been barred from bidding for US and Australian broadband projects.

SCMP has agreed not to identify the two employees, who work in low- and mid-ranking non-executive positions.

Mr Lum told SCMP that he believed the immigration applications were lodged without Huawei's knowledge.

According to Mr Lum - who spent 12 years as a Canadian visa officer, including three-year stints in Hong Kong and Beijing - immigration applicants rarely get rejected on suspicion of espionage.

A spokesman for Canada's immigration department declined to comment on individual cases, said SCMP.

She said the onus was on applicants to prove they did not pose a threat to Canada's security, and "all applications from around the world are assessed equally".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Canada to bar two Huawei workers over spying fears'. Print Edition | Subscribe