Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday Canada’s decision to arrest the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei at the request of the US was made “without any political involvement or interference.”
Meng Wanzhou, who is also deputy chair of Huawei’s board and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Vancouver on Saturday and is facing extradition to the US.
The arrest, which occurred on the same day that US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met after the G20 summit in Buenos Aires to discuss their trade war, is likely to further escalate tensions between Beijing and Washington.
Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Trudeau acknowledged that he had “a few days” notice of Meng’s planned arrest, but insisted there was no political interference in the case.
“I can assure everyone that we are a country of an independent judiciary and the appropriate authorities took the decision in this case without any political involvement or interference as must be the case,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau’s comments came after China’s Foreign Ministry earlier Thursday demanded the immediate release of Meng, saying it had “lodged stern representations with and made clear its stern position to the Canadian side and the US side respectively on this.”
Meng is facing extradition to the US, where prosecutors in New York are investigating whether Huawei violated US sanctions against Iran, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Meng had been provided consular assistance in Canada and that her detention amounted to a human rights violation.
Asian shares fell sharply on Thursday following the news the arrest. Hong Kong’s Han Seng Index plunged 2.47 per cent while Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 1.91 per cent after losing as much as 2.79 per cent.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton declined to “get into the specifics” about the arrest, but said the US has had concerns for years about forced technology transfers and other alleged practices of Chinese companies regarding intellectual property.
“Huawei is one company we’ve been concerned about. There are others as well,” Bolton told National Public Radio (NPR) in an interview.
Canada’s Justice Department said Meng’s bail hearing is set for Friday at 10am (1800 GMT) at the British Columbia Supreme Court.
The hearing is separate from extradition hearings, which have not been scheduled, Ian McLeod, spokesperson for the Justice Department, told dpa.
On Saturday, Xi and Trump agreed to a 90-day truce in their trade war that erupted in July.
Speaking to dpa on background, White House officials said Trump did not know about the extradition request before his dinner with Xi.
The Trump administration, however, has put pressure on Canada and other allies not to use Huawei equipment in their new 5G telecommunications networks.
Australia banned Huawei and Chinese chipmaker ZTE from building their 5G network in August, citing security concerns, while last month New Zealand’s GCSB spy agency banned mobile-operator Spark from using Huawei equipment in its planned 5G upgrade.
Huawei has previously denied it has breached US sanctions, saying it complies with all applicable laws and regulations, “including the applicable export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, US and EU.”