BEIJING (AP) — China summoned the U.S. ambassador to Beijing on Sunday to protest Canada's detention of a senior executive of Chinese electronics giant Huawei at Washington's behest and demand the U.S. cancel an 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 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 Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver, Canada.
The Xinhua report quoted Le as calling Meng's detention "extremely egregious" and demanded the U.S. vacate an order for her arrest. It quoted Le as calling for the U.S. to "immediately correct its wrong actions" and said it would take further steps based on Washington's response.
The move followed the summoning of Canadian Ambassador John McCallum on Saturday over Meng's detention and a similar 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 has threatened to increase U.S.-China trade tensions and shook stock markets globally last week. However, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," downplayed the impact of the arrest on trade talks between the two countries aimed at defusing the tensions.
"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 President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed over dinner to a 90-day cease-fire in the trade dispute.
The surprise arrest raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world's two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.
The U.S. alleged Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also said Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran.
Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said Chinese pressure on Canada's government won't work.
"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. There's no point in pressuring the Canadian government. Judges will decide," Paris tweeted in response to the comments from Beijing.
A Canadian prosecutor urged a Vancouver court to deny bail to Meng.
Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing Friday that a warrant had been issued for Meng's arrest Aug. 22 in New York. He said Meng, arrested en route to Mexico from Hong Kong, was aware of the investigation and had been avoiding the United States for months, even though her teenage son goes to school in Boston.
Gibb-Carsley alleged Huawei had done business in Iran through a Hong Kong company called Skycom. Meng, he said, had misled U.S. banks into thinking that Huawei and Skycom were separate when, in fact, "Skycom was Huawei." Meng has contended Huawei sold Skycom in 2009.
In urging the court to reject Meng's bail request, Gibb-Carsley said the Huawei executive had vast resources and a strong incentive to bolt: She's facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years.
The hearing is to resume Monday.