China yesterday ratcheted up its protest over the arrest of an executive of telecom giant Huawei on a US warrant in Canada, calling reports of her treatment “inhumane” as she seeks her release on bail for health reasons. China’s latest tirade over the case came as Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the company’s founder, faces a Canadian court’s decision on bail later Monday in Vancouver.
Meng’s arrest on December 1 has infuriated Beijing, rocking stock markets and raising tensions amid a truce in the US-China trade war.
A Chinese vice foreign minister summoned the US and Canadian ambassadors at the weekend, demanding that the US withdraw its arrest warrant and warning Canada that it faces “grave consequences”.
Meng, 46, faces US fraud charges related to alleged sanctions-breaking dealings with Iran. In a 55-page sworn affidavit, Meng said she has suffered from severe hypertension for years and has been treated in a Canadian hospital since her arrest. “I continue to feel unwell and I am worried about my health deteriorating while I am incarcerated,” the document read.
Meng said that she has had “numerous health problems” during her life, including surgery for thyroid cancer in 2011. “I wish to remain in Vancouver to contest my extradition and I will contest the allegations at trial in the US if I am ultimately surrendered,” she said.
China’s state-run Global Times newspaper reported, without citing sources, that “it seems that the Canadian detention facility is not offering her the necessary health care”. “We believe this is inhumane and violates her human rights,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press briefing, citing such reports.
Lu also said the Canadian government did not immediately notify the Chinese embassy or consulate about Meng’s arrest, as it should have under a consular agreement. China has itself faced global criticism over its human rights record and treatment of detained activists and minorities. Last year, dissident Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer while in custody after China rejected international appeals to let him travel abroad for treatment.
The international community has voiced concern about reports that up to 1mn Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are held in internment camps in the northwest region of Xinjiang. In a bail hearing that was adjourned on Friday, Canadian Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley asked for bail to be denied, saying Meng has been accused of “conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions”.
If convicted, she faces more than 30 years in prison. The extradition process could take months, even years, if appeals are made in the case.
Meng said she has ties to Vancouver that go back 15 years. She and her husband own several properties in the city, and she even had a Canadian permanent residency permit that she has since renounced.
Analysts say her arrest could be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations between the United States and China. Meng was arrested the same day that presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day trade war truce. But US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer rejected suggestions that the case could affect the negotiations, as the two sides face a March 1 deadline to reach an agreement.
Meng’s arrest “shouldn’t really have much of an impact” on the talks, Lighthizer told CBS’s Face the Nation, although he conceded that the Chinese side might see it that way. “For us, it’s unrelated” to trade policy matters. “It’s criminal justice.”
Separately, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow denied reports that Trump was “livid” that the arrest of Meng occurred while the US leader dined with Xi.
“He didn’t know,” Kudlow told Fox News Sunday. “He learned way later.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said politics played no part in the decision to arrest Meng. While the White House denies any connection between the trade talks and the arrest, US concerns about security linked to the ambitions of Chinese high-tech companies and the alleged theft of intellectual property are at the heart of the trade dispute.
Huawei has denied any ties to the Chinese government, but many in Washington and other Western capitals are sceptical and have raised security concerns.
US federal law already bans military and government use of devices made by Huawei and fellow Chinese firm ZTE. Influential Republican Senator Marco Rubio told Face the Nation that he plans to reintroduce legislation that would ban companies like Huawei from doing business in the US because they “pose a threat to our national interests.”
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