Ottawa has formally started an extradition process in the case of Huawei’s chief financial officer, who was arrested in Canada after being charged with circumventing US sanctions on Iran. China saw red over the move.
In a statement on Friday, Canada’s Department of Justice announced that it had issued “an authority to proceed,” thus “formally commencing an extradition process in the case of Ms Meng Wanzhou,” the Chinese telecommunication giant’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder.
Meng was arrested in Vancouver at Washington’s request in December. The US authorities have rolled out a long list of charges against Meng, which include bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit these crimes while allegedly breaching the US sanctions on Iran.
“An authority to proceed” is the first step in the extradition process, with Meng now set to appear in court on March 6, where a date will be set for her extradition hearing. The Canadian minister of justice has the final say on whether Meng will be handed over to the US.
The latest development in Meng’s case has dealt another blow to already strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing. China’s embassy in Canada has lambasted the move as politically motivated, saying in a statement that the Chinese side is “utterly dissatisfied” with how the case has been unfolding.
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“This is not a merely judicial case, but a political persecution against a Chinese high-tech enterprise. The subsequent developments have proved this,” the embassy said.
Meng’s lawyer David Martin has also cried foul at the decision, arguing that the charges against the Chinese executive were viewed by the US as a political tool to break an impasse in the China-US trade row.
“The president of the United States has repeatedly stated that he would interfere in Ms Meng’s case if he thought it would assist the US negotiations with China over a trade deal,” Martin said, referring to Donald Trump’s repeated remarks that Meng could be used as a bargaining chip to salvage stalled trade talks. Trump’s intervention was even criticized by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who urged him in December to stay away from her country’s judicial process.
However, the warning seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as Trump doubled down last month.
“We’ll be talking to the US attorneys. We’ll be talking to the attorney general,” he said on February 22, when asked if the US might drop the charges against Meng to secure a trade deal.
The Huawei saga comes at a time when Washington is pushing its allies to ditch the equipment provided by the Chinese tech giant, citing security concerns. The US reportedly offered financial incentives in the form of subsidies to those who would refrain from working with the world’s leading communications supplier. Speaking in Manila on Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again stoked fears over the perceived dangers posed by Huawei, calling for the world “to have eyes wide open.” Huawei has dismissed allegations of spying for Beijing, accusing Washington of unfair competition.
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