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China-linked businessman wants to bring face recognition tech to Canada

Facial recognition systems are the latest front in a debate about whether Canada should adopt Chinese technology.

The grocery chain Foody Mart is hoping to implement Chinese face recognition technology to process payments for customers in B.C. and Ontario. 

The owner of the company, Wei Chengyi, has close ties with the Chinese government as the honorary chair of the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations. Earlier this year, Chengyi attended an event with China’s President Xi Jinping while he was visiting Beijing.

“He was gratefully received by the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and President Xi Jinping. President Xi Jinping and Wei Chengyi cordially shook hands and greeted him,” writes a news release about the visit.

The Confederation has been praised by China’s Overseas Affairs Office for defending the government’s actions and interests abroad. 

The group’s activities have included attempting to establish a Confucius Institute affiliate in Toronto. The institute has been opposed in the past by professors at the University of Manitoba for being a front for the Chinese government to spy on students.

Chengyi is considering implementing the technology by acquiring it from Toronto company Snap Pay, who works with Chinese companies Alibaba Group and Tencent, to introduce facial recognition payment systems into North America. 

Facial recognition systems are the latest front in a debate about whether Canada should adopt Chinese technology, including allowing Huawei into the country’s 5G network. Justin Trudeau has postponed the decision until 2020, as the country is currently involved in an extradition dispute over the company’s CFO Meng Wanzhou. 

American lawmakers have warned Canada not to allow Huawei in the Canadian network over concerns about compromising shared intelligence operations.

“Our telecom networks are totally meshed together and if there was a vulnerability in the Canadian system, it would make America vulnerable. And vice-versa,” said Democratic Senator and Chair of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner.

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