China Kicks As Canada Arrests Huawei Finance Chief

The Huawei logo is displayed at a store in Beijing on December 6, 2018. The chief financial officer of China’s global telecommunications giant Huawei has been arrested in Canada and faces extradition to the United States, officials said, triggering a strong protest by Beijing, which called for her immediate release. FRED DUFOUR / AFP

 

A top executive and daughter of the founder of Chinese telecom giant Huawei has been arrested in Canada and faces extradition to the United States, officials said Thursday, angering Beijing days into a trade war truce with the US.

The detention of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, comes after American authorities reportedly launched an investigation into suspected Iran sanctions violations by Huawei, which was already under scrutiny by US intelligence officials who deemed the company a national security threat.

The arrest stirred tensions just as the United States and China agreed to a ceasefire in their trade spat while negotiators seek a deal within three months.

News of her detention rippled through stock markets in Asia, particularly Shanghai and Hong Kong, with tech firms among the worst hit. By lunch, Shanghai was 1.3 per cent lower while Hong Kong was 2.6 per cent off.

“China is working creatively to undermine our national security interests, and the United States and our allies can’t sit on the sidelines,” US Senator Ben Sasse in a statement linking the arrest to US sanctions against Iran.

“Sometimes Chinese aggression is explicitly state-sponsored and sometimes it’s laundered through many of Beijing’s so-called ‘private’ sector entities that are in bed with (President) Xi (Jinping)’s communist party,” he added.

Meng was arrested in the western city of Vancouver on December 1, Canada’s ministry of justice said in a statement.

The ministry said the US is seeking her extradition and she faces a bail hearing on Friday, adding it could not provide further details due to a publication ban that was sought by Meng, whose father, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, is a former Chinese People’s Liberation Army engineer.

The arrest occurred on the same day that US President Donald Trump and Xi struck the trade war truce at a summit in Argentina.

China’s embassy in Ottawa demanded Meng’s release.

“The Chinese side firmly opposes and strongly protests over such kind of actions which seriously harmed the human rights of the victim,” the embassy said in a statement.

“The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with the US and Canadian side, and urged them to immediately correct the wrongdoing and restore the personal freedom of Ms Meng Wanzhou.”

Huawei said it was unaware of any wrongdoing by Meng and was provided “very little information” about the charges.

“Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations where it operates, including applicable export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, US and EU,” the company said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported in April that US Department of Justice had opened an investigation into suspected violations of Iran sanctions by Huawei.

The New York Times said the company had been subpoenaed by the Commerce and Treasury Departments over alleged violations of Iran and North Korea sanctions.

ZTE case 

Huawei is not the first Chinese telecoms equipment firm to face the ire of US authorities.

Earlier this year, the US imposed a seven-year ban on the sale of crucial US components to Chinese smartphone maker ZTE after finding it had failed to take action against staff who were responsible for violating trade sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

The ban nearly killed the Chinese tech company, which said it was forced to cease major operations in May.

A month later, Washington and Beijing reached a deal that would strike ZTE from the sanctions list — just days after China reportedly offered to ramp up purchases of American goods to help cut the yawning trade imbalance with the US. American officials denied any connection between the two.

In exchange, ZTE agreed to pay a hefty $1 billion fine and put an additional $400 million in escrow in case of future violations. It was also ordered to replace its board of directors and retain outside monitors.

The case showed that China is highly dependent on imports of US-made semiconductors or computer chips and reinforced Beijing’s need to become self-reliant on this key technology.

Espionage worries 

Huawei is one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment and services providers.

But despite global success, its US business has been tightly constrained by worries it could undermine American competitors and that its cellphones and networking equipment, used widely in other countries, could provide Beijing with avenues for espionage.

In May, the Pentagon said that devices from Huawei and ZTE posed an “unacceptable” security risk. Personnel on US military bases are banned from buying equipment manufactured by the Chinese tech firms.

Over the summer, Australia barred Huawei from providing 5G technology for wireless networks in the country over espionage fears.

New Zealand followed suit in November but said the issue was a technological one.

Britain’s largest mobile provider too has joined the global ban on Huawei.

On Wednesday, BT announced it was removing Huawei’s telecommunications equipment from its 4G cellular network, following a warning from the head of MI6 foreign intelligence service that singled out the Chinese company as a potential security risk.

Despite being essentially barred from the critical US market, Huawei surpassed Apple to become the world’s number two smartphone maker in the second quarter of this year.

AFP

South Korea’s Moon Sacks Finance Minister, Policy Chief

South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in

 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in sacked his top two economic officials Friday, the government said, as the world’s 11th-largest economy struggles with slowing growth, rising unemployment and persistent income gaps.

Finance minister Kim Dong-yeon and presidential chief of staff for policy Jang Ha-sung had both been replaced, top Blue House spokesman Yoon Young-chan said in a televised statement.

The pair had reportedly been at odds with each other over how to address the situation.

Moon’s global profile has been dominated by his role in the rapid diplomatic rapprochement with nuclear-armed North Korea but at home his handling of the economy has become increasingly controversial, contributing to falling poll ratings.

His administration has steeply raised South Korea’s minimum wages, cut working hours and converted temporary staff to permanent in a series of redistributive moves it says will lead to what it calls “income-led growth”.

It is a marked change from the growth model of the past, driven by exports and investments by the South’s major companies, that has seen the South rise to become Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

And critics say the moves have had the opposite effect to what was intended, worsening the situation of many low-income earners and seeing small businesses cut staff, while big firms hold back investment in the face of tougher regulation.

Last month, the central Bank of Korea cut its growth forecast for this year to 2.7 per cent, down from the 3.1 per cent achieved in 2017.

And unemployment jumped 0.4 percentage points to 3.8 per cent in the third quarter, with youth joblessness at its highest since 1999 at 9.4 per cent.

Finance minister Kim had called for redistributive policies to be rowed back, including minimum wage hikes, while Jang wanted to stick with pursuing equality.

Kim was replaced by Hong Nam-ki, a veteran bureaucrat, while Jang was succeeded by Kim Soo-Hyun, currently Moon’s top social affairs adviser.

AFP

Vatican Finance Chief To Know Fate Next Month

FILE COPY Cardinal George Pell                                                                                 Credit: AFP

 

Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell will find out next month if he will stand trial on sexual offence charges, as his lawyer argued Tuesday the cleric was being targeted to punish the Catholic Church.

Pell, a top adviser to Pope Francis, is accused of multiple historic offences relating to incidents that allegedly occurred years ago. He took leave to return to Australia to fight the allegations being heard in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

The court said magistrate Belinda Wallington would deliver her decision on whether the case should proceed to trial on May 1.

It followed a weeks-long committal hearing involving witness statements and cross-examinations by Pell’s lawyers. He was not present for Tuesday’s final hearing.

His barrister Robert Richter told the court the case should be thrown out as the complainants were unreliable and not credible, Melbourne’s Herald Sun reported.

He added that the allegations were “the product of fantasy or mental health problems… or pure invention in order to punish the representative of the Catholic Church in this country for not stopping child abuse by others of children”.

“Cardinal Pell has been seen as the face of that responsibility,” he said.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson said while there were conflicts in the testimony of witnesses, they were for a jury to decide on, adding that nothing Richter referred to “amounts to a defect in the evidence”, Melbourne’s The Age reported.

Pell, 76, a former Sydney and Melbourne archbishop, is the most senior Catholic cleric to be charged with criminal offences linked to the Church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal.

The exact details and nature of the allegations have not been made public, other than they involve “multiple complainants”.

AFP