The US ambassador to Beijing was on Sunday called upon to protest the detention of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei chief financial officer in Vancouver. The senior executive has been slapped with financial fraud charges in the US, over allegations of selling communication systems to Iran, violating US sanctions, which are supported by Canada. The latter had acted upon an arrest warrant issued by Washington, while changing planes in Vancouver, on her way to Mexico from Hong Kong.
Xinhua News Agency quoted Chinese Junior Foreign Minister Le Yucheng as saying: “We have lodged solemn representations and strong protests with Ambassador Terry Branstad against the detention of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou”. The news agency further called Meng’s detention as “extremely egregious” and demanded that Washington rescind the arrest order immediately.
The Canadian Ambassador to China, John McCallum was also called upon on Saturday over Meng’s detention with a similar warning of “grave consequences” if she is not released.
The province of British Columbia canceled a trade mission to China because of Meng’s detention, amid fears that China could arrest Canadians in retaliation.
Considered the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies, Huawei’s reputation in the West has been marred by deepening US security concerns over its close ties to the Chinese government. USA has also pressured its European allies to limit use of Huawei’s technological systems, warning that they could be susceptible to surveillance and information theft.
Meng’s arrest has further complicated the ongoing US-China Trade War, as stock markets witnessed significant decline globally last week.US trade representative however, downplayed the crisis and was quoted as saying, “This is a criminal justice matter, it is totally separate from anything that I work on or anything that the trade policy people in the administration work on. … We have a lot of very big, very important issues. We’ve got serious people working on them, and I don’t think they’ll be affected by this.”
Coincidently, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was detained the day President Donald Trump and Chinese Head Xi Jinping, agreed to a 90-day cease-fire in the trade dispute.
Washington further alleged that Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran, to which it supplied sensitive communications equipment in violation of CAATSA (Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).
Vancouver prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing on Friday that an arrest warrant had been issued for Meng’s detention in New York on August 22. He further added that Meng was well aware of the ongoing investigation carried out against her, and had been avoiding the United States for several months.
Gibb-Carsley alleged that Huawei had undertaken business in Tehran through a Hong Kong based shell company called Skycom. Meng had misled US banks into believing that Huawei and Skycom were separate when, in fact, the latter was a subsidiary. Meng Wanzhou has contended that Huawei had sold Skycom in 2009.
In urging the court to reject Meng’s bail request, Gibb-Carsley said the Huawei executive had vast resources and a strong incentive to drop out as she is facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years.
Huawei, in a brief statement emailed to The Associated Press, said, “We have every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach the right conclusion.”
The alleged collusion between Chinese companies and Iranian establishments has serious implications for Canada as it could undermine national security and facilitate breach of sensitive information by adversaries.