OTTAWA—As a 30-day clock starts ticking for Canada to respond to a U.S. request to extradite Meng Wanzhou to face criminal charges, China is warning both countries to halt all proceedings against the Huawei executive.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing that “China is highly concerned” about 23 criminal charges filed Monday against Huawei and Meng, its vice chair and chief financial officer.
He said the U.S. should cease its pursuit of Meng and “stop going further down a wrong path,” and said Canada was being used by the United States in its campaign of “unreasonable bashing” against Huawei.
Geng urged Canada to take “seriously China’s solemn position” demanding Meng’s immediate release and “stop risking its own interests for the benefits of the U.S.”
Canada’s department of justice received the United States’ formal documents and request for extradition on Monday, said a departmental spokesman Christian Girouard.
The U.S. unveiled 23 charges against Huawei, including several against Meng as an individual, accusing the world’s largest telecommunications company of technology theft, bank fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering.
The U.S. charged Meng personally with “bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracies to commit bank and wire fraud” for what it says was a deliberate effort to mislead Huawei’s major banking partners about the company’s operations in Iran to evade U.S. and international sanctions.
Meng is the daughter of Huawei’s founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, who is close to China’s ruling Communist Party and President Xi Jinping. Canada’s former ambassador John McCallum said Xi is “very angry” about her arrest.
In fact, the U.S. also took aim at Huawei’s “founder” — who is identified on the company website as CEO Ren Zhengfei — but it did not name him.
The U.S. news release cited the indictment shows that “in 2007…Huawei’s founder falsely stated to FBI agents that Huawei did not have any direct dealings with Iranian companies and that Huawei operated in compliance with all U.S. export laws.”
The U.S. justice department said it did not name all executives as some are not yet “apprehended.”
Canadian officials in the international assistance group of the justice department now have 30 days to review the American request, and to decide whether to issue an “authority to proceed” to bring it before a Canadian court. Meng was previously arrested on Dec. 1 under a provisional arrest warrant.
The charges against her appear to kill the hope — as expressed by McCallum last week, and hinted at by U.S. President Donald Trump last month — that the U.S. might agree to drop the charges against Meng as part of a trade deal and pave the way for the release of two Canadians detained by China, and the repeal of a death sentence levied on a third.
On Tuesday, the Chinese government said the U.S. is using “national power to tarnish and crack down on specific Chinese companies in an attempt to strangle their lawful and legitimate operations.”
“Behind such practices are deep political intentions and manipulations,” said Geng, according to remarks translated and posted on the government’s website.
“We strongly urge the U.S. to stop its unreasonable bashing on Chinese companies including Huawei, and treat them objectively and fairly. China will also continue to uphold the lawful and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”
Canada’s justice minister David Lametti told reporters that Meng’s case will be handled according to Canada’s extradition obligations under a treaty with U.S., while respecting her Charter rights and “the rule of law.”
Nonetheless the U.S. charges raise pressure on Canada, which is already bearing the brunt of Beijing’s wrath over Meng’s arrest.
Top Trump administration and justice officials said Monday Huawei breached federal and criminal law and posed a risk to America’s national and economic security.
But while they said Chinese companies like Huawei have a pattern of flouting U.S. law, they said the charges do not allege crimes were committed by any Chinese government official.
Nevertheless, they said Huawei is a security threat to U.S. interests because state cybersecurity require it to comply with access demands of the Chinese government.
Meng, arrested Dec. 1 while in transit through Vancouver’s airport, is out on bail, living in her Vancouver home, and is due to reappear in court Feb. 6, however that will not be the formal extradition hearing where the U.S. case will be tested.
That hearing could be months down the road. Many steps along the way — including the decision to issue the “authority to proceed” in the name of the justice minister — may be subject to appeals.
Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc