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Huawei Founder Breaks Silence to Reject Security Concerns

WELLINGTON - The reclusive head of Chinese technology giant Huawei Thursday rejected US cyber-security fears that have seen Washington effectively freeze his company out of government contracts, reports said.

In what was billed as his first media briefing outside China in 26 years at the helm of Huawei, company founder and president Ren Zhengfei was interviewed by a small group of New Zealand journalists in the capital Wellington.

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The New Zealand Herald said the 68-year-old sought to quell any security fears arising from Huawei's involvement in the South Pacific nation's NZ$3 billion (US$2.5 billion) ultra-fast broadband network, now under construction.

The US Congress last year raised fears that Huawei's ties with Beijing meant telecom equipment supplied by the company could be used for spying and called for its exclusion from US government contracts and acquisitions.

Australia has also barred the firm from involvement in its new broadband network because of security concerns.

Ren, a former engineer in the People's Liberation Army who founded Huawei in 1987, rejected the security concerns and likened Huawei's business to laying pipes, the Herald reported.

"Our pipe carries the data and information traffic -- if the water running through the pipe is polluted, I think it is not the pipe that should be blamed," he said through a translator.

"We are no longer selling our telecom equipment to telecom carriers in the US. If, for example, the United States continues to say 'We still have this security problem', that may prove in hindsight that the decision may not be very fact-based."

Fairfax Media reported that Ren suggested "jealousy" might be a factor behind the US disapproval.

Time magazine last month named the 68-year-old in its list of the 100 most influential people on the planet, describing him as "the world's most controversial businessman".

In a hint at why he chose to make his international media debut in the relatively obscure surroundings of a Wellington waterfront hotel, Ren was quoted as saying he was grateful for the opportunities New Zealand had given Huawei.

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