VANCOUVER — Chinese officials are demanding that Canada release Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer, who was arrested in Vancouver over the weekend and faces possible extradition to the United States.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Thursday that the Chinese government also wants Canadian officials to reveal the reasoning behind Meng Wanzhou’s arrest Saturday.
He also said Meng’s legal rights must be ensured, adding that neither Canadian nor American officials had so far responded to China’s concerns.
The comments come after China’s embassy in Ottawa issued a statement Wednesday calling Meng’s arrest a serious violation of human rights.
“(Canada) arrested a Chinese citizen (who did not violate) any Canadian or American law,” the statement said.
“We will closely follow the development of the issue and take all measures to resolutely protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.”
Meanwhile, a clerk at the B.C. Supreme Court said Meng appeared in court Wednesday and a bail hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Canadian Justice Department spokesman Ian McLeod said the U.S. is seeking Meng’s extradition, but couldn’t provide further details about the case because a publication ban is in effect at Meng’s request.
Meng was changing flights in Canada when she was detained “on behalf of the United States of America” to face “unspecified charges” in New York, Huawei said in a statement.
“The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng,” the statement said. “The company believes the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion.”
In April, China appealed to Washington to avoid damaging business confidence following a Wall Street Journal report that U.S. authorities were allegedly investigating whether Huawei violated sanctions on Iran amid spiralling technology tensions.
That same month, Washington barred Huawei rival ZTE Corp. from exporting U.S. technology in a separate case over exports to Iran and North Korea.
In its statement Wednesday, Huawei said the company complies with all laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, including applicable export control, sanction laws and regulations of the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.
Huawei, the biggest global supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies, has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns. Under U.S. President Donald Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, Washington has pressured European countries and other allies to limit the use of its technology.
The U.S. sees Huawei and smaller Chinese tech suppliers as possible fronts for Chinese spying and as commercial competitors. The Trump administration says they benefit from improper subsidies and market barriers.
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said U.S. and Canadian business executives could face reprisals in China.
“That’s something we should be watching out for. It’s a possibility. China plays rough,” Mulroney told The Associated Press. “It’s a prominent member of their society and it’s a company that really embodies China’s quest for global recognition as a technology power.”
Mulroney said Canada should be prepared for “sustained fury” from the Chinese and said it will be portrayed in China as Canada kowtowing to Trump. He also said the Iran allegations are very damaging to Huawei and said China will push back hard.
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate armed services and banking committees, applauded Canada for the arrest.
“Americans are grateful that our Canadian partners have arrested the chief financial officer of a giant Chinese telecom company for (allegedly) breaking U.S. sanctions against Iran,” he said.
Meng is a prominent member of Chinese society as deputy chairwoman of the Huawei board and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei.
— With files from The Associated Press