China has responded to a report that the United States is considering an executive order to bar American companies from using telecommunications equipment from Huawei or ZTE Corp because they pose significant national security risks.
While its Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said she did not want to comment on the order directly as it had not yet been officially confirmed, she noted yesterday that countries should produce facts to justify their security concerns.
Ms Hua had been asked at a regular press briefing about a Reuters report yesterday that US President Donald Trump was considering such an executive order that will declare a national emergency, which would block companies from buying equipment from foreign firms that pose national security risks.
"Some countries abuse and use the issue of national security without any evidence, politicise normal scientific and technological exchanges with unwarranted charges, and set up various obstacles and restrictions," said Ms Hua. "This is actually tantamount to closing the door of openness on yourself, as well as the door of progress and fairness."
Citing unidentified sources, Reuters had reported that the executive order has been under consideration for more than eight months, and could be issued as early as next month. It would invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which would empower the US President to regulate commerce in response to a national emergency threatening the country.
While the order is unlikely to explicitly name Huawei or ZTE, the US Department of Commerce officials would see it as an authorisation to limit the spread of telecoms equipment from both companies, Reuters cited an unnamed source as saying.
Rural network operators are heavily dependent on equipment from Huawei and ZTE, which are cheaper than other alternatives.
The American Rural Wireless Association, which represents network operators with less than 100,000 subscribers, estimates that a quarter of its members have equipment from the two Chinese firms in their networks.
Huawei and ZTE are two of China's largest makers of telecoms equipment. Both companies have been accused by the US of being arms of the Chinese government, with fears that their equipment could be used for spying.
In August, the US passed a defence policy Bill banning the American government from using Huawei and ZTE equipment.
The potential move to ban American companies from buying telecoms equipment from Huawei or ZTE comes even as both countries are making arrangements for trade talks, and after the Canadian authorities arrested Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou earlier this month. The arrest of Ms Meng - who has since been released on bail - was requested by the US, which wants her extradited to face charges for violating sanctions against trade with Iran.
Beijing has since detained two Canadians on national security grounds and a third Canadian for working illegally. Another Canadian, identified as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, is facing drug smuggling charges in north-eastern Liaoning province and will be tried tomorrow in Dalian city. The case was reported on a Dalian government news portal on Wednesday.
Asked about the case and whether it would add to tensions between China and Canada, Ms Hua said she did not have a grasp of the situation, but added: "The Chinese side has repeatedly made clear China's solemn and just stand."
The Canadian authorities arrest Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (above) at Vancouver airport, after an extradition request from the United States. Ms Meng was en route to Mexico from Hong Kong.
The Americans want her to face charges on violating sanctions against trade with Iran.
Ms Meng is released on C$10 million (S$10.1 million) bail.
US President Donald Trump tells the media that he would intervene in the case if he "thought it was necessary" in helping to hammer out a trade deal with China.
The US is said to be mulling over an executive order that could bar American firms from using equipment from Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE because they pose security risks.
The order could be issued as soon as next month.