Huawei would never allow China’s government to access customer data, even if Beijing requested it, the CEO and founder of the company repeatedly emphasized Tuesday, amid continued political pressure on the Chinese technology giant.
In a rare sit down with international media, Ren Zhengfei addressed concerns raised by the U.S. government, which has warned that the company’s equipment could allow the Chinese government to have a backdoor into a nation’s telecommunications network. Ren Zhengfei, the CEO and founder of Huawei, said he would “definitely” refuse any request from the Chinese government to access the company’s user data. Ren told representatives of the international media that his longtime affiliation with China’s authoritarian party would not affect his ability to fight against that same government if it requested user data. The CEO also praised President Donald Trump, calling him a “great president.”
“When it comes to cyber security and privacy protection we are committed to be sided with our customers. We will never harm any nation or any individual,” Ren told the journalists assembled at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China.
“China’s ministry of foreign affairs has officially clarified that no law in China requires any company to install mandatory back doors. Huawei and me personally have never received any request from any government to provide improper information,” Ren added.
Ren, a former soldier in the People’s Liberation Army and a current Communist Party member, has faced several years of questions about his relationship between those organizations and his company. Despite his history, Ren told the representatives of the international media that his longtime affiliation with China’s authoritarian party would not affect his ability to fight against that same government if it requested user data.
“The values of a business entity is customer first, is customer centri city. We are a business organization so we must follow business rules. And in that context I don’t see close connection between my personal political believe and our business actions we are going to take as a business entity. And I think I already made myself very clear right now, we will definitely say no to such a request,” Ren said, when asked by CNBC about whether his ties to China’s ruling party would stop him from fighting any kind of data request.
Praising the U.S. president, Ren said, “For President Trump as a person, I still believe he is a great president,” he said. “In the sense that he was bold to slash taxes. And I think that’s conducive for the development of industries in the United States.”
Ren was asked several times during the Tuesday discussion to comment on the detention of his daughter, but he declined to go into detail, citing the ongoing status of the legal case. Instead, he said he “trusts” the U.S. and Canadian legal systems are open and he will await the judgement of the court.
Ren said that 2019 could be a difficult year for Huawei, with revenue growing below 20 percent. The company, he said, is targeting $125 billion in revenue for the whole year. Huawei has not released its total revenue for 2018 yet, but Eric Xu, one of the rotating chairmen at the technology giant, told CNBC in November that sales would top $100 billion.
“In 2019 we might face challenges and difficulties in international markets. That is why I said … our growth next year would be less than 20 percent,” Ren said.
“We have been investing in R&D heavily for many years … what has happened to ZTE will not happen to Huawei,” Ren said.