Huawei scion held on ‘breach of US sanctions’
Huawei chief financial officer and deputy chairwoman Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the Chinese telecommunications giant’s founder, has been arrested in Canada on a US extradition warrant, casting a cloud over negotiations on a trade agreement between Washington and Beijing.
Ms Meng was arrested by Canadian authorities last Saturday when she was transferring flights through Vancouver, reportedly on charges of violating trade sanctions against Iran.
China demanded her immediate release and a former Canadian ambassador to Beijing, David Mulroney, said US and Canadian business executives could face reprisals in China.
The 41-year-old, whose father Ren Zhengfei founded the Shenzhen-based company that is one of the world’s largest suppliers of telecommunications equipment, is in jail pending a bail hearing today.
Republican senator Ben Sasse, a member of the US Senate armed services and banking committees, said yesterday Americans were “grateful” that Canada had arrested Ms Meng “for breaking US sanctions against Iran”.
The arrest took place on the same day US President Donald Trump met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to discuss the trade war after the close of the G20 summit in Argentina.
It angered China at a sensitive time after the Trump-Xi talks unleashed negotiations for a new trade deal by March. The US has been pressing China for immediate action on cutting tariffs on car imports and increasing its purchases of US goods to redress the trade imbalance between the two countries, although very little has been announced by the Chinese.
The successful conclusion of discussions within the 90-day negotiating period will depend on considerable goodwill on the Chinese side to give enough ground to satisfy US demands.
The news of the arrest sent shares in Huawei plummeting and the Chinese currency weakened on fears it would throw a spanner in the trade talks.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa protested to the Canadian government, saying Ms Meng’s rights have been violated and demanding her immediate release.
“At the request of the US side, the Canadian side arrested a Chinese citizen not violating any American or Canadian law,” the embassy said.
The embassy “firmly opposes and strongly protests” the action, which had “seriously harmed the human rights of the victim”.
Canadian Justice Department spokesman Ian McLeod said Ms Meng had sought a publication ban on the release of any more details on the allegations, ahead of a bail hearing in Vancouver today.
The US Justice Department has been investigating Huawei’s shipping of US-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of US export and sanction laws, which was revealed by The Wall Street Journal in April.
Huawei said yesterday it had been provided with very little information on the charges and was “not aware of any wrong doing” by Ms Meng. “The company believes the Canadian and US legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion,” it said.
The company said it complied with “all applicable laws and regulations” where it operates, including export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, the US and the EU.
Huawei was banned from supplying equipment to Australia’s next-generation 5G network earlier this year, a move followed by New Zealand. This week British telecommunications company BT said it would remove Huawei technology from its 3G and 4G networks, and not include it in the 5G network. Washington has also barred Huawei rival ZTE from exporting US technology in a separate case over exports to Iran and North Korea. The allies are concerned about potential Chinese regime interference, although Huawei has denied this.