China asks questions on tech chief arrest
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.