China threatens Canada with ‘grave consequences’ if Huawei CFO not freed

China has warned Canada there would be severe consequences if it did not immediately release Huawei’s chief financial officer, calling the case “extremely nasty”.

Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on 1 December and faces extradition to the United States, which alleges that she covered up her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions.

The executive is the daughter of Huawei’s founder.

If extradited to the US, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, a Canadian court heard on Friday, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge.

No decision was reached at the extradition hearing after nearly six hours of arguments and counter-arguments, and the hearing was adjourned until Monday.

In a statement on Saturday, China’s foreign ministry said the vice-foreign minister, Le Yucheng, had issued the warning to release Meng to Canada’s ambassador in Beijing, summoning him to lodge a “strong protest”.

China’s official news agency Xinhua reported Le summoned the Canadian ambassador, John McCallum, in protest and urged Ottawa to release Meng immediately or face “grave consequences that the Canadian side should be held accountable for”.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for the Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said on Saturday there was “nothing to add beyond what the minister said yesterday”.

Freeland told reporters on Friday the relationship with China was important and valued, and Canada’s ambassador in Beijing has assured the Chinese that Meng would receive consular access.

When asked about the possible Chinese backlash, the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, told reporters on Friday Canada had a very good relationship with Beijing.

Canada’s arrest of Meng at the request of the United States while she was changing plane in Vancouver was a serious breach of her lawful rights, Le said. The move “ignored the law, was unreasonable” and was in its very nature “extremely nasty”, he added.

“There will probably be a deep freeze with the Chinese in high-level visits and exchanges,” David Mulroney, a 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 took place on the same day the US president, Donald Trump, met in Argentina with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to resolve an escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

The news of Meng’s 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.

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