Chinese web tycoon and future Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai waded into national security controversy Friday, slamming the US treatment of Chinese smartphone maker Huawei.
Tsai, a senior executive at Alibaba and right-hand man to its billionaire chief executive Jack Ma, said that the US was being “extremely unfair” to Huawei, adding that measures to restrict the company’s access to American markets was “very politically motivated.”
“I think what the American government [is] trying to do with Huawei is a bit unfair, there’s definitely a political agenda behind it,” Tsai said at a Reuters BreakingViews event in Hong Kong, accusing the American government of trying to hinder China’s rise via a trade war.
Huawei, the world’s biggest telecom gear maker, has been caught up in the crosshairs of the Trump administration’s trade war, with the feds alleging its products could be used by Beijing to spy on Americans.
Earlier this month, the daughter of Huawei Chief Executive Ren Zhengfei was arrested in Canada at the request of the feds — who accused her of orchestrating violation sanctions of Iran. Afterward, the Chinese government sentenced a Canadian man to death for drug smuggling after he had previously been given a sentence of 15 years.
In public comments the day after the sentencing, Zhengfei denied that Huawei spies for the Chinese government.
“I still love my country, I support the Communist party, but I will never do anything to harm any country in the world,” he said.
Tsai, who in April purchased a 49 percent stake in the Nets, has been working in recent months to strengthen the team’s connections to China, the league’s most important foreign market.
His purchase of the minority stake, which valued the Nets at $2.35 billion, also comes with the right to buy a controlling interest in the team by 2021.
A representative for the NBA was not able to be reached for comment on if Tsai would face any blowback from the league for his statements.
Tsai is considered instrumental for the NBA’s continued expansion into China, with commissioner Adam Silver telling The Post over the summer that the minority owner has “contributed significantly” by “offering strategic advice and insight to assist the league’s operations in China.”
The Nets are scheduled to play two preseason games in China this fall. It will be their third-ever trip to China, and first since Tsai purchased the team in April.
This story originally appeared in the New York Post.