Canada's immigration department is planning to deny permanent resident visas to three Chinese citizens who work for Chinese telecom titan Huawei over concerns the applicants are involved in espionage, terrorism, and government subversion.
A fourth person previously employed by Huawei, but married to someone who currently works for the company, was also told their application would be rejected, the Globe and Mail reported on Wednesday.
Huawei is the third largest manufacturer of smartphones in the world, operating in 170 countries with more than 170,000 employees. It came under fire when a scathing 2012 US House Intelligence Committee report alleged it was spying on Americans, a claim that was characterized by Huawei as "little more than an exercise in China-bashing." The UK and Australia have also raised concerns that the company was being used to gather intel for the Chinese government.
One applicant, who currently works for Huawei, received a letter dated March 18 from an immigration officer at the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong stating that the department was going to reject the application for permanent residency because the person does not "meet the requirements" for the visa. The letter, obtained by the South China Morning Post, goes into further detail, citing section 34(1)(f) of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which says that anyone believed to be engaged in "an act of espionage," subversion against the government, or terrorism, is inadmissible to the country.
This applicant's spouse also currently works for Huawei, according to the Globe.
An immigration officer sent another letter dated March 21 to the second applicant, who used to work for Huawei, on the same grounds. However, it added that the government is rejecting the application because the applicant's spouse, who still works for Huawei, "is a member of the inadmissible class," specifically someone believed to be engaging in spying, espionage, or subversion against the government.
Both applicants have denied being involved in spying, terrorism, and the like.
Jean-Francois Harvey, a Canadian immigration lawyer based in Hong Kong, is representing both couples in the matter and told the Globe their — unrelated — residency applications were submitted more than two years ago, and the timing of the rejection notices is more than coincidental.
"In 24 years [of my career], I've never seen such letters before. And the only thing in common with these persons is that they are Huawei employees," he said. Harvey has also represented more than 10 Huawei employees who have all immigrated to Canada successfully.
The government gave the applicants 30 days to file additional information in their cases. Harvey said they have done so, and are awaiting a reply from Immigration Canada.
A spokesperson for Huawei in Canada has previously told reporters the rejected applications have nothing to do with the company.
And Canada's Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) department agrees.
"IRCC agrees with comments [that Huawei] has had an 'established, efficient and positive relationship' with the government since 2008," spokesperson Felix Corriveau told VICE News in an email, adding that the department does not comment on "specific situations" such as the applicants in this instance.
"[T]hat relationship, combined with the company's process for managing immigration applications and the successful number of applications over the past eight years ... reaffirms Huawei's belief that the applications in question have nothing to do with the company."
Corriveau said that applications to Canada from around the world are "assessed equally, regardless of their country of origin. Canadian and security admissibility screening processes are universal in their application and non-discriminatory."
Huawei currently employs 600 people in Canada, and first came to Ontario in 2010, when it received a multimillion-dollar grant from the provincial government. In return, the company pledged to create more than 160 jobs there over the next five years, and invest $67 million. In March, the company announced $303 million in new investment spending that would bring in 250 new jobs in Ontario over the next two years.
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