China de­mands re­lease of Huawei ex­ec­u­tive ar­rested in Canada

The Guardian Australia - - News / Politics / World News - Lily Kuo in Bei­jing and agen­cies

China has de­manded the im­me­di­ate re­lease of a se­nior Huawei tele­coms ex­ec­u­tive whose ar­rest is threat­en­ing to de­velop into a ma­jor diplo­matic in­ci­dent.

Bei­jing is call­ing for both Ot­tawa and Wash­ing­ton to clar­ify their rea­sons for the de­ten­tion of Meng Wanzhou the Chi­nese com­pany’s global chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, who was ar­rested in Van­cou­ver on Satur­day and faces ex­tra­di­tion to the US. Canada con­firmed her de­ten­tion on Wed­nes­day night.

The Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Thurs­day that Bei­jing had sep­a­rately called on the US and Canada to im­me­di­ately clar­ify the rea­sons for the de­ten­tion and “im­me­di­ately re­lease the de­tained per­son”.

The con­tro­versy threat­ens to drive a fur­ther wedge be­tween the US and China.

Geng said China had been pro­vid­ing con­sular as­sis­tance to Meng since learn­ing of her ar­rest.

Meng is one of the vice-chairs on the Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy com­pany’s board and is the daugh­ter of the com­pany’s founder, Ren Zhengfei.

Her ar­rest is re­port­edly re­lated to al­leged vi­o­la­tions of US sanc­tions. A court hear­ing has been set for Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to Canada’s de­part­ment of jus­tice.

In a state­ment, the de­part­ment con­firmed Meng had been ar­rested and was fac­ing ex­tra­di­tion.

“As there is a pub­li­ca­tion ban in ef­fect, we can­not pro­vide any fur­ther de­tail at this time. The ban was sought by Ms Meng,” it said.

US stock fu­tures and Asian shares tum­bled af­ter Meng’s ar­rest. The news came as Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing be­gin three months of ne­go­ti­a­tions aimed at de-es­ca­lat­ing their bruis­ing trade war, which is adding to global in­vestors’ wor­ries over ris­ing US in­ter­est rates and other risks to global eco­nomic growth.

Fear­ing that a US-China trade war truce is be­com­ing unattain­able, Europe’s main stock in­dices slumped to their low­est point since De­cem­ber 2016 in morn­ing trad­ing. Lon­don’s FTSE

100 fell by 2.5%, while bench­mark in­dices in France, Ger­many and Italy all lost more than 2%. US stock mar­kets are also head­ing for heavy losses when they open on Thurs­day.

“The US has been telling its al­lies not to use Huawei prod­ucts for se­cu­rity rea­sons and is likely to con­tinue to put pres­sure on its al­lies,” said Nori­hiro Fu­jito, the chief in­vest­ment strate­gist at Mit­subishi UFJ Mor­gan Stan­ley Se­cu­ri­ties in Tokyo.

“So while there was a brief mo­ment of op­ti­mism af­ter the week­end USChina talks … the re­al­ity is, it won’t be that easy,” he said.

US au­thor­i­ties have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing Huawei since at least 2016 for al­legedly ship­ping US-ori­gin prod­ucts to Iran and other coun­tries in vi­o­la­tion of US ex­port and sanc­tions laws, sources told Reuters in April.

Huawei, one of the world’s largest mak­ers of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work equip­ment, said in a state­ment that Meng had been tem­po­rar­ily de­tained and faced “un­spec­i­fied al­le­ga­tions” in the east­ern district of New York.

The com­pany said it had com­plied with “all ap­pli­ca­ble laws and reg­u­la­tions where it op­er­ates”, in­clud­ing sanc­tion laws.

“There has been very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to Huawei on the spe­cific al­le­ga­tions. Huawei is not aware of any mis­con­duct by Ms Meng,” Guo Ping, the ro­tat­ing CEO of the com­pany, said in a state­ment posted on his Wechat ac­count on Thurs­day.

“The com­pany be­lieves the Cana­dian and US le­gal sys­tems will ul­ti­mately reach a just con­clu­sion,” he said.

The ar­rest comes days af­ter Don­ald Trump and his Chi­nese coun­ter­part, Xi Jin­ping, held a meet­ing in Ar­gentina where they agreed to steps to re­solve the on­go­ing trade war.

Meng served on the board of Hong Kong-based Sky­com Tech, which has busi­ness in Iran, ac­cord­ing to cor­po­rate fil­ings seen by Reuters. In 2013, Reuters found that the com­pany, which at­tempted to sell em­bar­goed Hewlett-Packard com­puter equip­ment to Iran’s largest mo­bile-phone op­er­a­tor had closer ties to Huawei than was pre­vi­ously known.

Meng, the old­est of Ren’s three chil­dren, was pro­moted ear­lier this year to serve as vice-chair on the com­pany’s board on a ro­tat­ing ba­sis, in a move many took as a sign she was be­ing groomed to take over from her fa­ther. Ren, a re­tired of­fi­cer of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, founded Huawei in 1987.

Huawei – one of the world’s largest telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment and ser­vices providers – has been tightly con­strained in the US by wor­ries it could un­der­mine lo­cal com­peti­tors and that its phones and net­work­ing equip­ment, used widely in other coun­tries, could pro­vide Bei­jing with av­enues for es­pi­onage.

On Wed­nes­day, BT, the UK tele­coms group, con­firmed it was in the process of re­mov­ing Huawei equip­ment from the key parts of its 3G and 4G net­works, as part of an ex­ist­ing in­ter­nal pol­icy not to have the Chi­nese firm at the cen­tre of its in­fra­struc­ture. Ear­lier this week the head of MI6 also sug­gested the UK needed to de­cide if it was “com­fort­able” with Chi­nese own­er­ship of the tech­nol­ogy be­ing used.

Gov­ern­ments in New Zealand and Aus­tralia have also moved to block the use of Huawei’s equip­ment in fu­ture 5G net­works.

In China, on­line users and com­men­ta­tors re­acted an­grily to the news of Meng’s ar­rest. The Cana­dian em­bassy’s Weibo page was bom­barded with posts crit­i­cis­ing its role in the in­ci­dent.

One user wrote: “Hello, Amer­i­can’s dog. What about hu­man rights? What about free­dom?”

On the US em­bassy’s page, an­other wrote: “Get out of China.”

Hu Xi­jin, the ed­i­tor of China’s of­ten stri­dently pa­tri­otic state-run tabloid the Global Times, posted on Weibo: “It is clear the US is push­ing the bat­tle line to our door … We can com­pletely re­gard the US ar­rest of Meng Wanzhou as a dec­la­ra­tion of war against China.”

Pho­to­graph: Ng Han Guan/AP

Meng Wanzhou is one of the vice-chairs of the Chi­nese tech firm and the daugh­ter of thecom­pany’s founder.

Pho­to­graph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

Meng Wanzhou.

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