The Chinese foreign ministry on Sunday summoned U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad to protest the detention of a senior tech executive by the Canadian authorities “at the unreasonable behest of the United States.”
Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng demanded the release of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, who is accused by U.S. officials of attempting to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Meng, 46, was bound for Mexico when she was detained while changing planes in Vancouver, Canada, more than a week ago. Huawei is China’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. Meng is also the daughter of the company’s founder.
A Canadian bail hearing for Meng that began last week will continue Monday. Prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley wants her held without bail, saying she faces fraud charges in the U.S. that could result in a prison sentence of 30 years.
Authorities say Huawei did business with Iran through a shell company in Hong Kong. Gibb-Carsley said Meng has been aware of the charges and avoided the U.S. for months – despite allowing her son to attend school in Boston.
“What the United States has done severely violates Chinese citizen’s legitimate rights and interests, and is vile in nature,” Le said in a statement through the state-run Xinhua news agency. “China will respond further according to the U.S. side’s actions.”
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On Saturday, Canadian Ambassador John McCallum was similarly summoned and chastised. The legal imbroglio has led to some unease among Canadian businesses and political leaders. But Roland Paris, a former foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, took to Twitter to warn that threats from China would be fruitless.
“Perhaps because the Chinese state controls its judicial system, Beijing sometimes has difficulty understanding or believing that courts can be independent in a rule-of-law country,” Paris tweeted. “There’s no point in pressuring the Canadian government. Judges will decide.”
Paris also had a suggestion for Chinese business leaders: “If you’re a high-profile Chinese tech executive targeted by the US in an escalating hegemonic struggle between the US and China, please do not change planes in Canada. Thank you.”
China Daily, an English-language newspaper seen as the government mouthpiece, claimed Meng’s arrest proved “the U.S. is trying to do whatever it can to contain Huawei’s expansion in the world.” The publication was dismissive of what it called a “Cold War mentality” toward China.
The issue surfaces in the midst of a U.S.-China trade war that saw President Donald Trump slap tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods. The administration also has warned that duties on another $267 billion in goods could be coming, which would subject to tariff virtually all Chinese-made products shipped into the U.S.
China retaliated by levying tariffs on $110 billion worth of a wide variety of U.S. products, including farm equipment, soybeans, electric cars, orange juice, whiskey, salmon and cigars.
The trade clash had appeared to be cooling, with the U.S. and China agreeing to suspend additional tariffs for 90 days. Last week, China’s government said it would promptly carry out a tariff cease-fire with Washington and expressed confidence that a trade agreement can be reached within the three-month timeline.
Trump’s response on Twitter was also encouraging: “I agree!”
Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard; Associated Press