Huawei president promises not to spy on US as Trump considers banning the company's telecom equipment

Key Points
  • Huawei President Ren Zhengfei says the company would not help China spy on the U.S. even if required by law.
  • U.S. intelligence officials have raised concerns about Huawei's capacity to set up backdoors in its devices to help China spy on Americans.
  • Ren's daughter, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, has been held by Canada since Dec. 1, facing extradition to the U.S. over charges including wire fraud.
Ren Zhengfei, founder and chief executive officer of Huawei Technologies, left, speaks during an interview at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen, China, in January.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Huawei would not help China spy on the U.S. with its devices, even if mandated by Chinese law to do so, founder and President Ren Zhengfei told CBS News in an interview that aired Wednesday.

Ren, whose daughter has been held by Canada since Dec. 1 on an extradition request by the United States, denied allegations by the U.S. government that the company aids Chinese intelligence by building a backdoor in its devices.

"Absolutely not possible," Zhengfei said. "And also, we never participate in espionage and we do not allow any of our employees to do any act like that. And we absolutely never install backdoors. Even if we were required by Chinese law, we would firmly reject that."

U.S. officials still fear that Chinese telecommunications firms could be used by the country to spy on Americans in part with the help of a 2017 law that gives Chinese officials new legal justification for monitoring people for national security purposes.

Last February, several U.S. security agency representatives testified on potential security risks of Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei. FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time that devices from these companies could allow for "undetected espionage" and the ability for malicious actors to steal information.

"We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," Wray said.

In April, the Pentagon warned that Huawei mobile phones and modems could potentially be used to spy on Americans and stopped selling the devices at stores on military bases worldwide.

The U.S. government also has accused the company and Ren's daughter, CFO, Meng Wanzhou, of wire fraud in an attempt to violate sanctions on Iran. It also has accused the company of stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile. Ren told CBS his daughter's arrest was "politically motivated."

The Trump administration is also considering an executive order that would ban Huawei telecom equipment from being sold in the U.S., an administration told CNBC earlier this month.

See the full interview on CBS News.

-CNBC's Amanda Macias and Kate Fazzini contributed to this report.

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