The arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd., has thrust Canada in the middle of a dispute between two superpowers: U.S. and China.
Canada is in the midst of sealing a new trade deal with the U.S. and Mexico, and at the same time, trying to develop more trade with China.
China has ratcheted up the pressure on Canada.
A former Canadian diplomat was arrested in China, and a second Canadian, who is described as a businessman, is reportedly missing.
The Chinese embassy in Canada claims that Vancouver arrest of the Huawei executive amounts to a “political conspiracy” to undermine the telecom giant.
The embassy also dismissed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim that he had no role in the high-profile situation.The U.S. wants Meng to be extradited on allegations of fraud related to purported violations of U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.
“This is not an ordinary judicial case, but a political conspiracy,” the embassy said in a statement to The Globe and Mail newspaper.
“It is a political persecution against Chinese enterprise and [a] Chinese citizen,” the embassy also stated. “When the Canadian side professed that there was no political involvement or interference in detaining Ms. Meng, such remarks per se [were] a political posture.”
Meanwhile in China, state-owned tabloid Global Times said in an editorial that Canada should distance itself from U.S. “hegemonism” and grant unconditional freedom to Meng.
Meng has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of misleading banks about transactions linked to Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating sanctions.
Meng was arrested on December 1 in Vancouver, and released on bail on December 11.
The U.S. needs to make a formal extradition request within 60 days of her arrest.
A Canadian judge will weigh to determine whether the case against Meng is strong for extradition to the U.S.
After that, it is up to Canada’s justice minister to decide whether to extradite her.
Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment and second-biggest maker of smartphones.
“I am proud of Huawei, I am proud of my motherland,” Meng said in a post on Chinese social media after her release.
Authorities in China are holding former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig on suspicion of engaging in activities harmful to national security.
Kovrig was detained on December 10.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland warned the U.S. not to politicize extradition cases.
U.S. President Donald Trump earlier said he would intervene in the case if it served national security interests.
Back in China, the official China Daily newspaper accused the U.S. of manufacturing the diplomatic incident in order to serve political ends.
“Washington is mistaken if it thinks it can take Meng hostage and ransom her for concessions in the upcoming trade talks,” it said.
A second Canadian man is feared detained in China in what appears to be retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Meng.
Canada’s Global Affairs department said Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who is one of the only Westerners to have met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had gone missing in China.
Spavor’s disappearance follows China’s detention of a former Canadian diplomat Kovrig.
“We have been unable to make contact (with Spavor) since he let us know he was being questioned by Chinese authorities,” Global Affairs spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we continue to raise this with the Chinese government.”
A Canadian court released Meng on bail, confining her to Vancouver and its suburbs while she awaits possible extradition.
The U.S. accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to do business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. and China have claimed that their trade talks are entirely separate from the U.S. case against the top Chinese technology executive.
Meng’s arrest came the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed over dinner in Buenos Aires to a 90-day cease-fire in the trade war between their countries.
The trade war has shaken global financial markets and raised worries about the impact on the world economy.
The truce was meant to buy time for more substantive talks over U.S. allegations that China steals U.S. technology and forces American companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
Canada has asked China for extra security at its embassy because of protests and anti-Canadian sentiment, and has advised foreign service staff to take precautions.