Canada on Wednesday arrested the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of global telecom giant Huawei, sparking the protest of the Chinese government which urged her immediate release.
Meng Wanzhou, one of the vice chairs on the Chinese technology company’s board and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Vancouver, where she is facing extradition to the United States on suspicion she violated the US sanctions against Iran.
The Globe and Mail quoted a Canadian Justice Department spokesman as saying that the Chinese national had been arrested on Dec. 1 and a court hearing has been set for Friday.
A Canadian source with knowledge of the arrest said the US is alleging Meng tried to evade the American embargo against Iran.
Beijing protested the arrest and urged Ottawa to immediately release her as she faces extradition to the US.
“The Chinese side firmly opposes and strongly protests over such kind of actions which seriously harmed the human rights of the victim,” a statement by the Chinese embassy in Canada said.
“The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with the US and Canadian side, and urged them to immediately correct the wrongdoing and restore the personal freedom of Ms. Meng Wanzhou.”
Huawei confirmed the arrest in a statement and said that it has been provided with little information of the charges against her, adding that it was “not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng.”
The Huawei statement said Meng, who has also gone by the English names Cathy and Sabrina, was detained when she was transferring flights in Canada.
The handset and telecommunications equipment maker said it complies with all applicable export control and sanctions laws and US and other regulations.
The arrest drew a quick reaction in Washington. US Senator Ben Sasse praised the action and said that it was “for breaking US sanctions against Iran.”
He added, “Sometimes Chinese aggression is explicitly state-sponsored and sometimes it’s laundered through many of Beijing’s so-called ‘private’ sector entities.”
The arrest could drive a wedge between China and the United States just days after President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping held a meeting in Argentina where they agreed to steps to resolve a brewing trade war.
US authorities have been probing Huawei since at least 2016 for allegedly shipping US-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of US export and sanctions laws.
Back in April, it was reported that federal prosecutors in New York had been investigating since at least last year whether the Chinese tech company violated US sanctions in relation to Iran.
In February, Senator Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, cited concerns about the spread of Chinese technologies in the United States, which he called “counterintelligence and information security risks that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors.”
US authorities in April banned American companies from selling to ZTE for seven years, saying the Chinese company had broken a settlement agreement related to Iran sanctions with repeated false statements – a move that threatens to cut off ZTE’s supply chain.
The ZTE ban was the result of its failure to comply with an agreement with the US Commerce Department reached last year after it pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to violate US sanctions by illegally shipping US goods and technology to Iran.
In 2016, the Commerce Department made documents public that showed ZTE’s misconduct and also revealed how a second company, identified only as F7, had successfully evaded US export controls.
In a 2016 letter to the Commerce Department, 10 US lawmakers said they believed F7 to be Huawei, citing media reports.