China’s Huawei Technologies Co (華為) has taken out full-page advertisements in major New Zealand newspapers in which they equate the idea of a ban on the company to a rugby union tournament without the All Blacks.
The advertisement reads: “5G without Huawei is like rugby without New Zealand,” referring to the upcoming nationwide rollout of the mobile technology.
National telecom Spark has been temporarily banned from using Huawei equipment in the rollout after New Zealand’s spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, warned that it would pose “significant national security risks.”
The advertisement, in the New Zealand Herald and newspapers owned by Stuff, also claims consumers could miss out on the latest technology and end up paying more.
The US, Australia, Japan, the UK, India, Germany and Italy have raised concerns or issued bans on the use of Huawei 5G technology.
Its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), is under house arrest in Canada, facing US charges.
Huawei was not banned from operating in New Zealand, and the matter was between the firm and Spark, New Zealand Minister of Justice Andrew Little said.
Huawei’s advertising blitz is designed to appeal to the average New Zealander, experts say, by invoking the national sport and religion: rugby union
Huawei has repeatedly lobbied the government to explain why it has not been allowed to participate in the 5G rollout, but the advertisements represent a significant escalation in efforts at a time when relations between China and New Zealand appear strained.
Huawei New Zealand deputy managing director Andrew Bowater said that the government had not been willing to engage in any dialogue and the company deserved an explanation.
“There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by Huawei presented and we strongly reject the notion that our business threatens New Zealand in any way. We deserve the opportunity to have our voice heard and to address any concerns in good faith,” Bowater said.
Last year, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s first official visit to China was delayed indefinitely, and a major tourism function between the two countries has also been postponed, following reports that China would not send any government legislators to the glitzy Wellington event.
Over the weekend an Air New Zealand flight to China turned back to Auckland after five hours. Some reports suggested the “very unusual” incident was the result of a mention of the contested nation of Taiwan in paperwork onboard the plane.
New Zealand’s relationship with China was “complex” and had its challenges, but remained “incredibly important,” Ardern said.
Spark has said that it plans to roll out 5G by the end of 2020 and the Huawei delay should not cause them to miss that deadline.
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