The arrest of Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is being compared to a “kidnapping” by China’s state media as fury continues to grow in Beijing with more demands for her release.
The top executive with the Chinese telecom giant was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States, which is seeking her extradition, on allegations that Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Meng’s arrest has infuriated China, and its state-run media is lashing out at Canada.
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“Without any solid evidence, the Canadian and U.S. governments trampled on international law by basically ‘kidnapping’ Chinese citizen Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei,” Wei Xinyu, a research fellow with the Ministry of Commerce, wrote for the Global Times, a tabloid owned by the Communist Party of China.
“The incident shows that the US and some other countries that follow the US didn’t abide by the bottom line of international law at all,” Wei wrote. “From now on, we should reduce or cancel important people’s visits to the US, Canada and some other countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand.”
A separate editorial for the nationalist tabloid characterized the arrest as a politically motivated effort to contain the rise of China’s tech companies.
“Obviously Washington is resorting to a despicable rogue’s approach as it cannot stop Huawei’s 5G advance in the market,” the Times wrote. “The Chinese government should seriously mull over the US tendency to abuse legal procedures to suppress China’s high-tech enterprises.”
U.S. authorities have not revealed the charges in the case, and Meng faces a bail hearing later Friday in a Vancouver court.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he knew in advance of the pending arrest in Canada, but that there was no political involvement in the decision to detain the Huawei executive.
“The appropriate authorities took the decisions in this case,” Trudeau told reporters on Thursday. “We were advised by them with a few days’ notice that this was in the works, but of course, there was no engagement or involvement at the political level in this decision because we respect the independence of our judicial processes.”
Huawei, China’s largest telecom company, is a major player in the global rollout of next-generation 5G wireless networks.
The U.S and Australia have barred Huawei, and last week New Zealand blocked one of its mobile carriers from using Huawei equipment for its 5G mobile network, citing a “significant network security risk.”
Canada and Britain are both conducting ongoing security reviews but have not banned the company from its networks.
“All Chinese companies at the end of the day, and probably to a great degree, are susceptible to being pressured to do things for the People’s Republic of China,” former CSIS director Ward Elcock told Global News. “Chinese technology, in a lot of places in the world, could be used as a mechanism for intelligence gathering.”
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U.S. security officials have warned for years that Huawei’s smartphones and networking equipment could be used for spying or espionage.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate intelligence committee, called Huawei a “threat to our national security” and urged Canada to exclude Huawei equipment from its 5G mobile phone network.
“This is a reminder that we need to take seriously the risks of doing business with companies like Huawei and allowing them access to our markets,” Warner said in a statement.
Huawei has denied any improper links to the Chinese government or that it is collecting data on their behalf.
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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang strongly criticized both Canada and the U.S. over the arrest and called for Meng’s release.
“Detaining the person involved with no explicit reason certainly harms her human rights,” Geng said on Thursday. “Neither the U.S. nor Canada has made any clarification on the reason for the detention so far.”
Meng’s arrest also raised fears it could be damaging to a trade dispute between China and the U.S. Huawei’s CFO was taken into custody on the same day China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to a 90-day negotiation to resolve a damaging tariffs war that led the U.S to target US$250-billion worth of Chinese goods.