BEIJING — China summoned the U.S. ambassador to Beijing to protest Canada’s detention of a senior executive of Chinese electronics giant Huawei at Washington’s behest, demanding the U.S. cancel the order for her arrest.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng “lodged solemn representations and strong protests” with Ambassador Terry Branstad on Sunday against the detention of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. Meng, who is reportedly suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran, was detained on Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver, Canada.
The Xinhua report said Le called Meng’s detention “extremely egregious” and demanded the U.S. vacate the arrest warrant. It said Le urged the U.S. to “immediately correct its wrong actions,” warning Beijing will take further steps based on Washington’s response.
On Saturday, the Chinese government summoned Canadian Ambassador John McCallum over Meng’s detention. He was also given a warning of “grave consequences” if she is not released.
The Canadian province of British Columbia said in a statement Sunday it canceled a trade mission to China because of Meng’s detention. The announcement came amid fears China could detain Canadians in retaliation.
Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns over its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.
Meng’s arrest threatens to add to U.S.-China trade tensions at a time when the two sides are seeking to resolve a dispute over Beijing’s technology and industrial planning.
But U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” downplayed the impact of the arrest.
“This is a criminal justice matter,” he said. “It is totally separate from anything that I work on or anything that the trade policy people in the administration work on. … We have a lot of very big, very important issues. We’ve got serious people working on them, and I don’t think they’ll be affected by this.”
Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was detained on the same day that President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed over dinner to a 90-day cease-fire in the trade dispute.
Hearings on whether to grant her release on bail were due to resume later Monday.
The U.S. alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also says that Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran.
In a brief statement emailed to The Associated Press, Huawei said “We have every confidence that the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach the right conclusion.”
Canadian officials have declined to comment on Chinese threats of retaliation over the case, instead emphasizing the independence of Canada’s judiciary along with the importance of Ottawa’s relationship with Beijing.
While protesting what it calls Canada’s violation of Meng’s human rights, China’s ruling Communist Party stands accused of mass incarcerations of its Muslim minority without due process, locking up people exercising their right to free speech and refusing to allow foreign citizens to leave the country in order to bring pressure on their relatives accused of financial crimes. The party also takes the lead in prosecutions of those accused of corruption or other crimes in a highly opaque process, without supervision from the court system or independent bodies.
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