The US Justice Department said on Tuesday that it would pursue the extradition of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s chief financial officer, arrested in Canada in December on allegations that she participated in a conspiracy to defraud banks.
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou faces accusations in the United States that she misrepresented her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran, despite sanctions.
The US statement came the day after a report that Canada’s ambassador to the US said the Canadian government was told that Washington planned to proceed.
The ambassador, David MacNaughton, told The Globe and Mail on Monday that he had voiced Canadian resentment about the dispute that ended in Meng’s arrest. China later detained two Canadians and imposed the death penalty on a third.
“We will continue to pursue the extradition of defendant Ms Meng Wanzhou, and will meet all deadlines set by the US/Canada Extradition Treaty,” Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the US Department of Justice, said in a statement.
“We greatly appreciate Canada’s continuing support of our mutual efforts to enforce the rule of law.”
Meng is Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei. Huawei has close ties to China’s military and is considered one of the country’s most successful international enterprises, operating in the high-tech sphere where China hopes to establish dominance.
Earlier on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying demanded that the US drop the extradition request.
Chunying said Meng’s case was out of the ordinary and Canada’s extradition treaty with the US infringed on the “safety and legitimate rights and interest of Chinese citizens”.
Hua’s remarks came after more than 100 academics and former diplomats signed a letter calling on China to release the two detained Canadians.
The letter signed by academics and former diplomats said the arrests of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor would lead to “less dialogue and greater distrust, and undermine efforts to manage disagreements and identify common ground. Both China and the rest of the world will be worse off as a result”.
More than 20 diplomats from seven countries and more than 100 scholars and academics from 19 countries signed.
Meng is living under house arrest in her Vancouver mansion while her case is under deliberation. Kovrig and Spavor are being held in Chinese jails and have yet to be granted access to lawyers, according to those who have contact with them.
The US and other Western countries have broader fears that Huawei technology – particularly its hardware for mobile networks – could let the Chinese government listen in. Several countries, including the US, have restricted purchases of Huawei equipment.
Huawei Chairman Liang Hua said critics needed to back up their allegations.
“If they believe there’s a backdoor, they should offer evidence to prove it,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.