China asks ques­tions on tech chief ar­rest

The West Australian - - WORLD - Hannah Boland and Hasan Chowd­hury Lon­don

As Don­ald Trump and Xi Jin­ping tucked into sir­loin steaks and goat’s milk ri­cotta last Satur­day night at the G20 sum­mit in Buenos Aires, 11,000km away in windy Van­cou­ver, the US ad­min­is­tra­tion was mak­ing its move.

While Meng Wanzhou was trav­el­ling through the Cana­dian air­port for a con­nect­ing flight, she was seized by of­fi­cials. The US Depart­ment of Jus­tice had re­quested the Cana­di­ans ar­rest the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of Huawei, the con­tro­ver­sial Chi­nese tele­com gi­ant, for ex­tra­di­tion to the US on al­le­ga­tions she had vi­o­lated sanc­tions on Iran.

Ms Meng was sched­uled to ap­pear in a Van­cou­ver court for a bail hear­ing overnight, WA time.

A Chi­nese gov­ern­ment state­ment said Ms Meng had bro­ken no US or Cana­dian laws and de­manded Canada “im­me­di­ately cor­rect the mis­take” and re­lease her.

Mr Trump did not know about plans to ar­rest Ms Meng, US of­fi­cials said yesterday, in an ap­par­ent at­tempt to stop the in­ci­dent from im­ped­ing cru­cial trade talks with Bei­jing.

Cana­dian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also sought to dis­tance him­self from the ar­rest, say­ing the de­ci­sion was made “with­out any po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment or in­ter­fer­ence”.

He said he was given a few days ad­vance no­tice of the in­ten­tion of Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties to ar­rest her but said it was the de­ci­sion of law en­force­ment.

China has de­manded Ms Meng be re­leased im­me­di­ately and com­plained nei­ther Canada nor the US have given a rea­son for the ar­rest.

A For­eign Min­istry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said ar­rest­ing her with­out that vi­o­lated her hu­man rights.

The of­fi­cial China Daily said in an edi­to­rial there was still “no telling” on what grounds Ms Meng had been de­tained and that it seemed to be part of US plans to pres­sure its al­lies not to use Huawei goods.

“But one thing that is un­doubt­edly true and proven is the US is try­ing to do what­ever it can to con­tain Huawei’s ex­pan­sion in the world sim­ply be­cause the com­pany is the point man for China’s com­pet­i­tive tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies,” it said.

“What is badly needed for the de­vel­op­ment of China-US ties is po­lit­i­cal trust. Yet Wash­ing­ton, in per­suad­ing and pres­sur­ing its al­lies to shun co-op­er­a­tion with Huawei, has helped erode that po­lit­i­cal trust,” the English-lan­guage pa­per said.

On the sur­face, the ar­rest of Ms Meng, the daugh­ter of Huawei’s pow­er­ful founder Ren Zhengfei, and the woman many be­lieved was be­ing lined up to take on the chief ex­ec­u­tive post — seems a pointed at­tack by the US in its con­tin­u­ing trade chal­lenges with China.

But in re­cent months, mount­ing con­cerns about Huawei have started to ex­tend well be­yond the blus­ter from Wash­ing­ton.

Huawei is the world’s big­gest sup­plier of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work equip­ment, with revenue of about $US92 bil­lion ($127 bil­lion) last year.

Un­like other big Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy firms, it does much of its busi­ness over­seas and is a mar­ket leader in many coun­tries across Europe, Asia and Africa.

Both Aus­tralia and New Zealand, two coun­tries in­side the Five Eyes in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing al­liance, have taken steps to pre­vent the Chi­nese com­pany from help­ing build their 5G mo­bile net­works over po­ten­tial threats to na­tional se­cu­rity.

On Wed­nes­day, Bri­tish phone car­rier BT said it was re­mov­ing Huawei equip­ment from the core of its mo­bile phone net­works. It said Huawei still was a sup­plier of other equip­ment and a “val­ued in­no­va­tion partner”.

Gov­ern­ments are con­cerned about the close links be­tween Huawei and the Chi­nese mil­i­tary, with coun­tries fear­ing that Huawei tech­nol­ogy could be used to con­duct es­pi­onage on be­half of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

Huawei has con­sis­tently de­nied al­le­ga­tions that its de­vices could be used for spy­ing.

A spokesman re­cently said: “Huawei firmly be­lieves that our partners and cus­tomers will make the right choice based on their own judg­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing with Huawei.”

It may not be a house­hold name like other tech­nol­ogy busi­nesses such as Mi­crosoft and Ap­ple, but Huawei’s de­vices are widely used in na­tional in­fra­struc­ture across the world.

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