The reclusive founder of Huawei has denied allegations that his telecoms company spies for the Chinese government.
Ren Zhengfei also praised President Donald Trump as a “great president,” shrugging off allegations by Washington that Huawei is a threat to US national security.
Speaking to foreign media for the first time in three years, Ren, 74, said he loved China and supported the Communist Party but had never been asked to share “improper information” about Huawei’s partners.
US government officials say Beijing could use Huawei equipment to snoop on Americans. The company has also been prevented from supplying next-generation 5G equipment to Australia and New Zealand.
The company has attracted even greater scrutiny following the arrest of its chief financial officer, Ren’s daughter Meng Wanzhou, last month in Canada.
Meng has been released on bail but faces a lengthy legal fight over extradition to the United States. The US government alleges that Meng helped the company dodge sanctions on Iran.
Ren told reporters during the rare interview that he misses his daughter “very much.” Huawei has repeatedly said it’s unaware of any wrongdoing by its CFO.
Huawei is one of China’s leading tech companies. It sells more smartphones than Apple (AAPL) and builds advanced telecommunications networks in countries around the world, competing with Nokia and Ericsson.
The company has repeatedly denied allegations that it operates under the influence of the Chinese government, saying it’s a private business owned by its employees.
“There is no external institution that owns our shares — even 1 cent,” Ren said.
In addition to the Wall Street Journal, journalists from publications including the Financial Times and Bloomberg attended the media briefing. Huawei sent a transcript of the interview translated into English to CNN.
The founder played down the tensions between Huawei and the United States.
Huawei is “like a small sesame seed, stuck in the middle of conflict between two great powers,” Ren said, according to the transcript. Trump “is a great president, in the sense that he was bold to slash taxes,” a move that will benefit business.
But it’s also important to treat all countries and companies “nicely” so they will invest in the United States, he added.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the BBC as one of the media that attended the Huawei event.