The arrest of a prominent Chinese CFO has sparked a dispute between Beijing and the West.
A diplomatic dispute over the arrest of a leading Chinese business executive has thrown a spanner into the works of China’s relationship with the US and Canada.
Meng Wanzhou, Chief Financial Officer for Huawei, a telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics company, was detained by Canadian authorities in Vancouver on Dec. 1 and charged with violating US sanctions on Iran. If extradited and found guilty, she could face up to 30 years in prison.
In a court hearing Friday, the Supreme Court of British Columbia was told that Ms Meng had used a Huawei subsidiary called Skycom to evade sanctions on Iran between 2009 and 2014.
On Sunday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng separately summoned both the US and Canadian ambassadors and lodged a “strong protest” urging her release, describing Ms Meng’s arrest as “extremely nasty.”
Her arrest “ignored the law” and was “unreasonable”, a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted by Reuters said.
China and Canada have long been allies; indeed, earlier this year, as Donald Trump fought with the former country on the subject of trade, they seemed to be moving closer together, poised to sign a lucrative free trade agreement in the name of keeping global markets free and open.
Yet the relationship has also been fraught with tensions, notably on the issue of human rights, a key policy position for the Trudeau administration, but one on which the Chinese government has long been accused of falling short.
At the same time, the arrest has put further strain on US-China relations. In the days before Ms Meng’s arrest, Washington and Beijing had agreed a 90-day truce to their longstanding trade dispute–an agreement that may now be under threat.
Huawei is one of the largest telecommunications equipment and services providers in the world, recently passing Apple to become the second-biggest smartphone maker after Samsung. Yet it has also been accused by western governments of being an espionage tool for the Chinese government.
Japan is expected to ban government use of products made by Huawei over cybersecurity concerns, local media reported on Friday, following moves by Australia and New Zealand to block the firm.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Friday that China had been assured that due process was being followed and Ms Meng would have consular access while her case was before the courts. She also reiterated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim that Ms Meng’s arrest had “no political involvement.”