China demands Canada release Huawei executive embroiled in spying row

Our Foreign Staff
A profile of Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is displayed on a Huawei computer at a Huawei store in Beijing, China - AP

China on Thursday demanded Canada release a Huawei Technologies executive who was arrested in a case that adds to technology tensions with Washington and threatens to complicate trade talks.

Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, faces possible extradition to the United States, according to Canadian authorities. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, said she is accused of trying to evade US curbs on trade with Iran.

China's foreign ministry urged Canada and the US to "clarify" the reason Ms Meng was detained.

"We have made solemn representations to Canada and the US, demanding that both parties immediately clarify the reasons for the detention, and immediately release the detainee to protect the person's legal rights," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a press briefing on Thursday morning.

The timing of the arrest is awkward following the announcement of a US-Chinese cease-fire in a tariff war over Beijing's technology policy. Meng was detained in Vancouver on Saturday, the day Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met in Argentina and announced their deal.

Asian stock markets tumbled on the news, fearing renewed US-Chinese tensions that threaten global economic growth. Market indexes in Tokyo and Hong Kong by 1.9 percent and 2.8 percent and Shanghai was off 1.7 percent at midday.

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa said Meng broke no US or Canadian laws and demanded Canada "immediately correct the mistake" and release her.

"The Chinese side expresses firm opposition and strongly protests this serious violation of human rights," said an embassy statement.

Huawei Technologies Ltd, the biggest global supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies, has been the target of deepening US security concerns. Washington has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology.

The US sees Huawei and smaller Chinese tech suppliers as possible fronts for Chinese spying and as commercial competitors that the Trump administration says benefit from improper subsidies and market barriers.

Trump's tariff hikes this year on Chinese imports stemmed from complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. But American officials also worry more broadly about Chinese plans for state-led industry development they worry might erode US industrial leadership.

US leaders also worry that Beijing is using the growth of Chinese business abroad to gain strategic leverage.