Chinese telecoms giant Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, has filed suit against Canadian authorities for violating her constitutional rights when she was arrested in Vancouver, her lawyers said Sunday.
As she suffered “serious breaches of her constitutional rights,” she is “seeking damages for misfeasance in public office and false imprisonment” when detained at Vancouver International Airport on December 1, attorneys Howard Mickelson and Allan Doolittle said in a statement.
The 47-year-old businesswoman was changing planes in Vancouver when she was detained at Washington’s request on suspicion of violating US sanctions on Iran — sparking arrests of Canadians in China that were seen as retaliatory.
Her lawyers charge impropriety in the conditions under which Meng was interrogated for three hours by the customs officers, officially as part of a routine inspection, before being served with her official arrest.
During those three hours, the customs officers searched her phones and computers as well as her luggage, in violation of her rights, the lawyers said.
The complaint was lodged Friday, the same day that Canadian justice officially launched Meng Wanzhou’s extradition process to the United States.
The US Justice Department accuses Huawei and its chief financial officer of circumventing US sanctions against Iran, but also, via two affiliates, stealing trade secrets from US telecommunications group T-Mobile.
The daughter of Huawei’s founder, Meng was released on parole in mid-December in Vancouver, where she owns two residences, on a bond deposit of C$10 million ($6.6 million), wearing an electronic bracelet and handing over her passports.
She is scheduled to appear before a Vancouver judge next Wednesday “to confirm that a writ of court has been issued and to schedule a date for the extradition hearing,” the Canadian court has explained.
The extradition procedure can take months or even years because of the many appeal possibilities.
China is furious over the US charges against Meng, saying they are the product of “strong political motivations” and an attempt to undermine its flagship telecoms company.
A top executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei will seek release from Canadian detention Monday on health grounds, as Beijing escalates its protests over her arrest on a US warrant.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, faces US 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 December 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 US-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.
In a sworn 55-page affidavit, Meng said she has been treated in 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 that she has had “numerous health problems” during her life, 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 US if I am ultimately surrendered,” she said.
A Chinese vice foreign minister summoned the US and Canadian ambassadors over the weekend, demanding that the US 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 Kang said at a regular press briefing.
Lu also said the Canadian government did not immediately notify the Chinese embassy or consulate about Meng’s arrest, as it should have under a consular agreement.
China has itself faced global criticism over its human rights record and treatment of detained activists and minorities.
At a hearing that was adjourned on Friday, Canadian Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley asked for bail to be denied, saying Meng has been accused of “conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions.”
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 that go back 15 years. She and her husband own two mansions in the city, and she even had a Canadian permanent residency permit that she has since renounced.
Meng has agreed to surrender her passports and submit to electronic monitoring if she is released, pending the outcome of the case.
Canadian media said police were called to one of her luxury homes in Vancouver 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 US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer rejected suggestions that the case could affect the talks. “For us, it’s unrelated” to trade policies, he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “It’s criminal justice.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said politics played no part in the decision to arrest Meng.
Chinese state-run media on Friday condemned the arrest in Canada of a top executive of telecoms giant Huawei on a US extradition request as a “despicable rogue’s approach” to contain Chinese high-tech ambitions.
The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, has angered the Chinese government and raised concerns that it could disrupt a trade war truce between the world’s two biggest economies.
“The Chinese government should seriously mull over the US tendency to abuse legal procedures to suppress China’s high-tech enterprises,” said the nationalist tabloid Global Times in an editorial.
“Obviously, Washington is resorting to a despicable rogue’s approach as it cannot stop Huawei’s 5G advance in the market,” it said.
The China Daily warned that “containing Huawei’s expansion is detrimental to China-US ties.”
US authorities have not disclosed the charges she faces following a publication ban sought by Meng, but “one thing that is undoubtedly true and proven is the US is trying to do whatever it can to contain Huawei’s expansion in the world simply because the company is the point man for China’s competitive technology companies,” the daily said.
Though China’s technology sector is still reliant on certain US exports like microchips, Beijing wants to transform the country into a global tech leader — with a technological prowess rivalling the United States — in a plan dubbed “Made in China 2025”.
Huawei is one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment and services providers. Its products are used by carriers around the world, including in Europe and Africa.
But 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.
Australia, New Zealand and Britain have followed suit this year by rejecting some of the company’s services over security concerns.
Chinese netizens have criticised Meng’s arrest on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, where online trolls sometimes deliberately incite nationalist fervour or pro-government stances.
Some users viewed the incident as part of the trade war — and a broader conspiracy to keep down China’s technological development.
“One of the most important reasons why the US started the trade war was to attack China’s technology sector and its ‘Made in China 2025’ plan,” wrote one Weibo user.
The goal is to keep China stuck in “low-end industries and force China into the middle-income trap.”
The detention of Meng appears to be a “game of politics”, wrote another user.
The Huawei executive’s arrest follows a US probe into the company’s alleged violations of Iran sanctions.
Earlier this year, another Chinese tech firm ZTE nearly collapsed after Washington banned US companies from selling crucial hardware and software components to it for seven years, though the ban was lifted after it agreed to pay a $1 billion fine.
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.
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.
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.