Thursday, October 28, 2021

Washington: It’s important that you talk to officials about companies that secretly spy on Americans. Everyone else: Meh.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who has been held in custody in Vancouver since Dec. 1, made her first public appearance Tuesday night at a Huawei Canadian headquarters event, eight days after she was formally indicted by the U.S. on allegations that she misled banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the company’s founder, was allowed back into Canada and released on bail Tuesday night, The Associated Press reported, shortly after new diplomatic diplomatic attempts led to her release

Before stepping down on Dec. 1, Wanzhou was the company’s vice-chairman, at the top of a massive company – valued at about $180 billion in 2016, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world – that is about to roll out smart digital phones, surveillance gear, communications lines and fiber-optic cables to connect nearly everything in our lives.

Huawei is not a U.S. company, but the U.S. government believes that its technology has been used by Iran and other countries to spy on Americans. Understandably, Washington has accused the company of being too closely allied with the Chinese government. Huawei denies that.

Why does it matter? While it’s rare for a journalist to be allowed to interview with a high-ranking person inside the U.S. government, the opportunity to speak with a Huawei executive directly – especially given the importance of Huawei in the U.S. government’s debate over national-security software – made it all the more startling.

The next day, WaPo’s China expert Scott Anderson interviewed with Meng at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen. Here’s that story:

Huawei’s glitzy Canadian headquarters – and the person who founded it – sit in a sound-proof “High-Security Zone” on a hilltop, along with a secret nuclear “shield” fence and the “theoretical space,” a small, high-tech pavilion in which the company films most of its promotional videos.

Many of the walls at the seven-storey complex are packed with CCTV cameras, as well as microphones that sit to one side of the main room to record incoming conversations. The audio is replicated and played back by massive giant speakers. It’s all part of the company’s outreach to its vast customer base, and part of its ambitions to grow as a major player in the U.S. market.

Meng began her remarks Monday night, at a reception with a company-produced live broadcast, with jokes about weight loss. “I have lost a lot of weight,” she said. “I’m kind of looking at myself in the mirror every day.”

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