Huawei founder says his daughter hasn't faced hardship and her arrest will 'make her stronger'

  • Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said he believes there's a possibility that the arrest of his daughter Meng Wanzhou in December was politically motivated.
  • When asked by CNBC if Meng was a "hostage" in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, he replied "maybe."
  • Canadian authorities arrested Meng after a request from the United States and faces extradition.

The founder and CEO of Chinese tech giant Huawei said he believes the arrest of his daughter, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, will "make her stronger" since she has faced very little hardship in life.

Meng was arrested in December by Canadian authorities after the U.S. government charged her with fraud linked to alleged violations of Iran sanctions. She denies the charges. She is under house arrest in Canada and faces extradition to the United States.

"I think my children have grown up without experiencing much hardship. Struggling a bit can be good for them. Cuts and bruises toughen her up, and even since ancient times, heroes were born of hardship." -Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO, Huawei

During an interview with CNBC that airs Monday, her father Ren, who is known for using military allusions during speeches, asked an aide to hand him a Huawei phone. It held an image of a damaged — but still airborne — Ilyushin Il-2, a Soviet aircraft from World War II. He used it as a metaphor for his daughter.

"Meng is now in a similar situation. She will be a hero if she makes it back to us. I think that is how this story is likely to end," Ren said.

The Huawei boss said the experience will make his daughter stronger.

Meng Wanzhou, Executive Board Director of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, attends a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum "Russia Calling!" in Moscow, Russia October 2, 2014.
Alexander Bibik | Reuters
Meng Wanzhou, Executive Board Director of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, attends a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum "Russia Calling!" in Moscow, Russia October 2, 2014.

"I think my children have grown up without experiencing much hardship. Struggling a bit can be good for them. Cuts and bruises toughen her up, and even since ancient times, heroes were born of hardship. I think this challenge will be good for my daughter," Ren said.

"These difficulties will make her stronger and prepare her for even greater things ahead. So I'll let her face what she is facing," he added.

Asked if his daughter is a "hostage" in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, Ren said: "Maybe."

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In a March interview with Canada's CTV, Ren said that Meng was thinking of leaving Huawei before she was arrested. He told CNBC over the weekend that she has had a change of heart.

"After all these upheavals, she has changed her mind and doesn't want to leave. She has understood the difficulties that the company is facing and wants to help us see this through," Ren said, adding that she will continue as the CFO if she is freed.

Trump 'hasn't shared his thoughts with me'

Huawei has faced intense pressure since last year. The United States has called the company a national security risk, alleging that its equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. Huawei has repeatedly denied that claim.

The Chinese tech giant has gone on the offensive since the start of the year, with a big public relations push and legal challenges. It filed a lawsuit against the U.S. in March claiming that a law that bans government agencies from buying Huawei equipment is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Meanwhile, lawyers for Meng filed suit against the Canadian government alleging that her arrest and detention violated her constitutional rights.

In December, U.S. President Donald Trump drew criticism in the United States after he said he could intervene in Meng's case if it would help secure a trade deal with China.

Ren said he had not had communication with Trump on the matter.

"I don't know. President Trump hasn't shared his thoughts with me," Ren said.

The Huawei CEO talks to his daughter on the phone every now and then.

"We have calls quite often, talking about family," he said. "We don't talk about anything else, because we know that our communication is being monitored. What else can we talk about? Nothing but life."