VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - A top executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei on Monday sought release from Canadian detention on health grounds, as Beijing escalates its protests over her arrest on a U.S. warrant.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, faces U.S. fraud charges related to alleged sanctions-breaking dealings with Iran, and has been awaiting a Canadian court’s bail decision.
She was detained in Vancouver on Dec. 1 while changing planes during a trip from Hong Kong to Mexico, for possible extradition.
Her arrest has infuriated Beijing, rocking stock markets and raising tensions amid a truce in the U.S.-China trade war.
Beijing’s latest outcry over the case also led to the suspension of a planned Canadian forestry trade mission to China this week.
Meng has agreed to surrender her passports and submit to electronic monitoring if she is released, pending the outcome of the extradition case.
“Given her unique profile as the face of a Chinese corporate national champion, if she were to flee or breach her order in any way in these very unique circumstances, it does not overstate to say she would embarrass China itself,” Meng’s lawyer, David Martin, told the court.
In a sworn 55-page affidavit, Meng said she has been treated in a hospital for hypertension since her arrest.
“I continue to feel unwell and I am worried about my health deteriorating while I am incarcerated,” the affidavit read.
Meng said she’d suffered numerous health problems, 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 U.S. if I am ultimately surrendered,” she said.
A Chinese vice foreign minister summoned the U.S. and Canadian ambassadors over the weekend, demanding that the U.S. withdraw its arrest warrant and warning Canada that it faces “grave consequences.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang was critical of Meng’s treatment, citing China’s state-run Global Times newspaper as reporting 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,” Lu said at a regular press briefing.
At a hearing that was adjourned on Friday, Canadian Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley asked for bail to be denied, saying Meng had been accused of “conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions” and posed a flight risk.
She is specifically accused of lying to bankers about the use of a covert subsidiary to sell to Iran in breach of sanctions.
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 going back 15 years. She and her husband Liu Xiaozong own two homes in the city, and she even had a Canadian permanent residency permit that she has since renounced.
Liu, who was at the hearing, has offered the residences and 1 million Canadian dollars in cash — for a total value of C$15 million — as a surety for his wife’s release, the court heard.
Police were reportedly called to one of the houses, in Vancouver’s Dunbar neighborhood where she proposes to stay, about a possible break-in early Sunday.
A decision on extradition could take months or even years, if appeals are made in the case.
Analysts say Meng’s arrest — the same day that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day tariffs truce — could be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations between the United States and China.
But U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer rejected suggestions that the case could affect the talks while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said politics played no part in the decision to arrest Meng.
Huawei’s affordable smartphones have made strong inroads in the developing world, but the company has faced repeated setbacks in major Western economies over security concerns.
The company faces being shut out of Australia, New Zealand and US 5G rollouts, and British telecom group BT revealed last Wednesday it was removing Huawei equipment from its core cellular network.