Chinese telecommunications giant, Huawei, secretly flew millions of masks to Canada, as health and hospital authorities struggled to get adequate safety equipment for medical workers dealing with deadly coronavirus outbreaks.
The company has sent to Canada more than one million masks, 30,000 glasses and 50,000 pairs of gloves, according to someone who has knowledge of the donation, a scale that has not been published by Huawei. Globe and Mail did not identify the person because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
And Huawei, which has sparked controversy with prizes to other countries, continues to send more. He has plans to give six million masks to Canada. A relatively small percentage – less than 200,000 – would be the N95 mask used by frontline medical workers, but in short supply. Huawei does not send a ventilator.
The Huawei prize came when the company sought major federal approval to install its 5G technology on a Canadian cellular network. Huawei has also requested the release of its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver in 2018. The United States has requested extradition for fraud charges related to alleged violations of sanctions against Iran.
But the company’s contribution is invaluable because the rapid spread of COVID-19 triggered a global race to buy masks, dramatically raising their selling prices – for those who could afford them. In Canada, the lack of major protective equipment has become so acute that officials are examining ways to disinfect and reuse medical masks, said the head of the Theresa Tam Public Health Service on Sunday. On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the supply of critical protective equipment is “being very low.”
Canada sent 16 tons of protective equipment to China in early February.
The first supply supplied by Huawei arrived in Canada on March 22, said Alykhan Velshi, vice president of Huawei Canada’s corporate affairs.
“Three weeks ago, we began to reach out to provincial governments in Canada who offered to donate medical masks and other supplies,” he said. “These are all donations. Canadian provincial government officials have helped pinpoint the areas where they are most needed and readiness to distribute masks. “
Huawei is one of a group of large Chinese companies with financial interests in Canada that have sent or promised personal donations, as Canadian buyers struggle to secure their own supplies. Chinese donors include billionaire Jack Ma and his Alibaba Foundation, Bank of China, and Tencent Trip.com. The personal donations amount to millions of masks and a pair of gloves and at least 100,000 protective canals, according to someone with volume knowledge.
Alibaba sent 500,000 masks and 100,000 test kits, which were sent to Toronto on March 24. Trip.com has promised 100,000 masks, a spokesman confirmed. A spokeswoman for Tencent said the company was looking for shipping supplies to countries in need, but could not confirm details.
Huawei itself has donated millions of masks throughout the world, including to a number of European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.
But with so much controversy surrounding its existence in Canada, Huawei is seen trying to “maximize good faith with the Canadian government without taking the risk of attracting too much public controversy. Therefore, the lack of publicity, “said Anton Malkin, a researcher at the Center for International Governance Innovation.
The donation raises difficult questions for the Canadian leadership, he said. Ottawa can carry out a cost-benefit analysis: Does our immediate need for masks exceed the damage caused by foreign influences that result in our decision to take their masks? Which choice best guarantees the health and well-being of Canadians? “
The Chinese government, together with many companies headquartered in China, has been involved in “mask diplomacy,” sending large quantities of medical equipment worldwide. Chinese government officials want to portray the country as a cooperative and selfless global partner. “When fighting an intense battle, does anyone think of the size of the prizes they will receive after the war?” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said last week. “In China, we do our best to protect the lives and health of people at the lowest possible cost, while contributing as much as we can to other affected countries.”
The images of Chinese generosity have been partly tainted by quality problems, with the Netherlands, Spain, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Turkey all raising concerns over goods received from China.
“We must be aware there are geopolitical components including the struggle for influence through spinning and ‘politics of generosity,'” Josep Borrell, head of EU foreign policy, wrote in a recent blog post. He warned: “China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner.”
For Canada, one option is to accept items sent by Huawei – but refuse to take them as donations, said Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador to China. “Compensate for Huawei. That will eliminate ambiguity, “he said.
“Huawei does this with what I call ulterior motives,” he said. “They clearly want to buy good intentions for decisions that must be taken by the Canadian government.”
But for now, he said, “the priority is to get an adequate supply.”
Huawei itself said it used its financial and logistical strength which was large enough to provide assistance.
“In times of crisis, we must all unite and help,” said Mr. Velshi “That’s about citizenship.”
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