China has warned Canada of “severe consequences” if it did not immediately release telecom company Huawei’s chief financial officer (CFO), calling the case “extremely nasty”.
“China strongly urges the Canadian side to immediately release the detained person, and earnestly protect their lawful, legitimate rights, otherwise Canada must accept full responsibility for the serious consequences caused,” said a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry on Saturday.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO and daughter of its founder, was arrested in Canada on December 1 and faces extradition to the United States.
The US alleges the 46-year-old executive covered up her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions.
If extradited to the US, Meng could face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge.
Canada’s arrest of Meng at the request of the US, while she was changing plane in Vancouver, was a serious breach of her rights, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said.
The move “ignored the law, was unreasonable” and was in its very nature “extremely nasty”, he added.
On Friday, a Canadian court heard the extradition plea, but no decision was reached after nearly six hours of arguments and counter-arguments. The case will be next heard on Monday.
There was no immediate reaction from the office of Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Saturday.
When asked about the possible Chinese backlash after Meng’s arrest, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday that Canada has a very good relationship with Beijing.
“There will probably be a deep freeze with the Chinese in high-level visits and exchanges,” David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China, said on Friday.
“The ability to talk about free trade will be put in the ice box for a while. But we’re going to have to live with that. That’s the price of dealing with a country like China.”
Meng’s arrest was on the same day that US President Donald Trump met in Argentina with China’s Xi Jinping to look for ways to resolve an escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
The news of her arrest has roiled stock markets and drawn condemnation from Chinese authorities, although Trump and his top economic advisers have played down its importance to trade talks after the two leaders agreed to a truce.
A Huawei spokesman said on Friday the company has “every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach the right conclusion.”
The company has said it complies with all applicable export control and sanctions laws and other regulations.