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‘Where does that leave us?’ Burnaby customers frantic as Chinese cell giant exiting Canada

National security concerns cited by Canadian government
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One of China’s biggest state-owned, mobile phone networks appears to be pulling out of Canada – including its Burnaby store in the Crystal Mall - on the back of a federal government court order which centred on security concerns.

And that has left some of its customers feeling frantic about what happens to their accounts.

China Mobile International (CMI) announced on its website on Tuesday that it would be ceasing operations of its CMLink network as of Jan. 5, 2022.

CMI - which appears to have only two stores in B.C., including the one in Burnaby and at Lansdowne Centre in Richmond – said its announcement is “at the request of the Canadian federal government.”

The statement read that, starting Dec. 28, CMI won’t accept any new membership applications and all SIM cards that haven't been activated before Jan. 5, 2022, will be void.

CM Link is a subsidiary of the Chinese, state-owned CMI, which is in charge of China Mobile's operation in the Canadian market.

“Where does that leave us,” one Burnaby customer posted on the social media app WeChat. “We’re not being given any information. I'm worried about my account.”

The NOW contacted the local store in Crystal Mall, but staff declined to comment. Glacier Media has also contacted CMI Canada for comment.

The National Post reported earlier in December how China Mobile had lost a court bid for a temporary hold on the federal government’s order that its Canadian affiliate be divested or wound up over national security concerns.

Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton said the harms to the public interest posed by China Mobile International Canada’s continued operation “are significantly greater” than the harms the company has shown it would suffer without a stay of the order.

In January, the federal government told CMI Canada that a review of its operations, prompted by security concerns, indicated that the business could be leveraged by the Chinese state for foreign interference.

The government then issued an order in August directing parent company China Mobile to either wind up or divest the Canadian business within 90 days.

At a hearing last month, CMI Canada said, if the order to wrap up operations stood, it would be irreparably harmed, losing customers, regulatory licenses, contracts, revenues and the right to do business in Canada.

In its earlier court submission, the Canadian government said CMI Canada had not filed “any direct evidence on this motion from any officer, executive or employee of any of China Mobile or CMI Canada to establish the nature or extent of the harm their counsel alleges they would suffer by complying with the Order.”

China Mobile, the government added, is a state-owned enterprise of China — “a country that poses a significant threat to Canada and Canadians through its espionage and foreign interference operations.”

  • With additional reporting by Alan Campbell and Nono Shen, Richmond News


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