A top executive at a Chinese technology company has been arrested in Canada on U.S. charges related to an investigation into whether her firm, Huawei, The Globe and Mail reports. Meng Wanzhou, who also goes by Sabrina Meng, was arrested on December 1. The U.S. is seeking extradition, the newspaper reports.
Meng, 46, is the chief financial officer of Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder, Ren Zhengei. “She is sought for extradition by the United States, and a bail hearing has been set for Friday. As there is a publication ban in effect, we cannot provide any further detail at this time. The ban was sought by Ms. Meng,” Canadian Justice Department spokesman Ian McLeod said in a statement to The Globe and Mail. A source told the newspaper that the arrest is related to an investigation into whether Huawei and Meng violated the American embargo against Iran.
Huawei and Chinese authorities have said Meng has not violated any laws and should be released from custody. Her arrest comes just after President Donald Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and agreed to temporarily halt the trade war between the two countries for 90 days. According to NBC News, reports of Meng’s arrest caused U.S. stocks to tumble on fears of retaliation by China and a flare-up in tensions between the two countries.
Huawei is the largest global supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies and recently passed Apple as the second-biggest manufacturer of cell phones, behind only Samsung Electronics, according to NBC News. U.S. officials have been concerned about the security threat the company poses as it grows. U.S. officials, including Trump and Barack Obama, have called for countries around the world to limit the use of Huawei technology, as they see the company as a potential front for Chinese spying.
CNN reports, “The Pentagon in May ordered stores on American military bases to stop selling smartphones made by Huawei and Chinese rival ZTE. And in February, top officials from the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency told a Senate committee that those firms’ smartphones posed a security threat to American customers.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Meng Was Arrested in Vancouver & the U.S. Is Seeking Her Extradition, but the Exact Charges Against Her Haven’t Been Made Public
Sabrina Meng was arrested in Vancouver on December 1, but details of her detention were not made public until a December 5 report by The Globe And Mail. American law enforcement officials have not commented about the arrest, and Canadian authorities have said they are bound by a gag order request submitted by Meng. She is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, December 7, for a bail hearing.
According to The Globe and Mail, American authorities were investigating whether Meng and Huawei violated U.S. sanctions on Iran, an investigation first reported by the Wall Street Journal in April. Huawei has denied any wrongdoing. The company told The Globe and Mail that Meng is facing “unspecified charges in the Eastern District of New York.” The U.S. Attorney for that federal court district has not commented about the arrest.
Huawei said Meng was taken into custody while she was transferring flights in Canada. Huawei said in a statement, “The company has been provided with very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng. The company believes the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion,” adding that it, “complies with all applicable laws and regulations where it operates, including applicable export control and sanction law.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, told The Globe and Mail, “Huawei has direct ties to the Chinese government and Communist Party, has long posed a serious risk to U.S. national security, and I continue to strongly urge Canada to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of its 5G development, introduction, and maintenance.”
Fellow Republican Senator Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, told The New York Times, that China has been “working to creatively undermine our national security interests, and the United States and our allies can’t sit on the sidelines.” He linked Meng’s arrest to sanctions against Iran, saying, “Americans are grateful that our Canadian partners have arrested the chief financial officer of a giant Chinese telecom company for breaking U.S. sanctions against Iran.”
Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from West Virginia, tweeted, “There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party – and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a ‘national champion,’ is no exception. It has been clear for some time that Huawei, like ZTE, poses a threat to our national security. Now we know that Huawei, like ZTE, has violated U.S. sanctions law.”
Warner added, “It’s my hope that the Trump Administration will hold Huawei fully accountable for breaking sanctions law, as it failed to do in the case of ZTE. This is a reminder that we need to take seriously the risks of doing business with companies like Huawei and allowing them access to our markets. I continue to strongly urge our close ally Canada to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of its 5G infrastructure.”
2. She Has Worked for Huawei Since 1993 After Studying at Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Meng Wanzhou has worked at her father’s company since 1993, according to her biography on the Huawei website. She has a master’s degree from Huazhong University of Science and Technology. Along with Sabrina Meng, she has also used the name Cathy Meng.
Meng, currently the company’s CFO and deputy chairwoman of its board, previously held the positions of director of the international accounting department, CFO of Huawei Hong Kong and president of the accounting management department. The company says about her work:
In 2003, Ms. Meng established Huawei’s globally unified finance organization, and developed the standardized and unified organizational structure, financial processes, financial systems, and IT platforms. Since 2005, Ms. Meng has led the founding of five shared service centers around the world, and she also promoted the completion of the Global Payment Center in Shenzhen, China. These centers have boosted Huawei’s accounting efficiency and monitoring quality, providing accounting services to sustain the company’s rapid overseas expansion.
Since 2007, Ms. Meng has been in charge of the Integrated Financial Services (IFS) Transformation Program, an eight-year partnership between Huawei and IBM. This transformation program helped Huawei develop its data systems and rules for resource allocation, operating efficiency improvement, process optimization, and internal controls. IFS also took Huawei’s financial management to a new level, creating new DNA for the company’s sustainable growth.
In recent years, Ms. Meng has focused on advancing fine-grained and comprehensive financial management at Huawei, working to align these efforts with the company’s long-term development plan. Ms. Meng has continually worked to improve treasury risk and tax compliance management systems, and has helped to make financial operations within the company more efficient, agile, and intelligent.
In 2013, Reuters reported that Meng served on the board of Skycom Tech Co. Ltd., a Hong Kong-based company, that attempted to sell embargoed Hewlett Packard computer equipment to Iran’s top mobile phone operator. Skycom has ties to Huawei, according to Reuters. The news organization reported, “At least 13 pages of the Skycom proposal were marked “Huawei confidential” and carried Huawei’s logo. Huawei has said neither it nor Skycom provided the HP equipment; HP said it prohibits the sale of its products to Iran.”
Meng is a mother, according to the South China Morning Post, and recently talked about her son. She has been mostly private, keeping details of her life quiet, and only began giving interviews in 2013.
“My son did not want to go swimming one day and he almost knelt on the ground and begged my husband so that he would not have to go. But he was rejected,” Meng said in a speech at Chongqing international school in 2016, according to SCMP. “Now my son is proud to represent his school in swimming competitions.”
In 2018, she spoke at a conference in Singapore about Huawei’s future in the tech world, according to SCMP, saying, ““Without universities, the world would be left in darkness. Without industry, science would be left in the ivory tower. The fourth industrial revolution is on the horizon and artificial intelligence is one of its core enabling technologies. Huawei is lucky to be part of it.”
3. China Is Demanding Her Release & Are Calling Her Arrest a Violation of Her ‘Human Rights’
Chinese officials have demanded Meng be immediately released from custody. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement, “The detention without giving any reason violates a person’s human rights.”
The spokesperson added, “We have made solemn representations to Canada and the US, demanding that both parties immediately clarify the reasons for the detention, and immediately release the detainee to protect the person’s legal rights.”
In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said Meng has not violated Canadian or U.S. law and called for Meng to be released.
“The Chinese side has lodged stern representations with the U.S. and Canadian side, urged them to immediately correct the wrongdoing and restore the personal liberty of Ms. Meng Wanzhou,” the embassy said in a statement. “We will closely follow the development of the issue and take all measures to resolutely protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.”
4. Meng Has Been Seen as a Potential Successor to Her 74-Year-Old Father, a Former Army Officer Who Founded the Company in 1983
Meng has long been since as a successor to her 74-year-old father, Ren Zhengfei, who founded Huawei in 1983 after retiring from the military. Ren and his daughter are both members of China’s elite. He is a former People’s Liberation Army officer and was elected to the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. He rose from poverty to the prominent position.
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, told The Globe and Mail that Meng’s arrest could provoke backlash in China.
“This is a really big deal. Ms. Meng is by birth and position a member of China’s corporate royalty,” he told the newspaper. “Her arrest, on suspicion of violating the Iran sanctions, should be seen as a clear signal that Canada is willing to face China’s fury to do the right thing. That said, it will be portrayed in China as Canada kowtowing to Donald Trump. The arrest also threatens to fatally undermine Huawei’s efforts to portray itself as a reliable infrastructure partner to its remaining supporters in the West.”
5. Her Sister Is a Computer Science Student at Harvard & Was a Debutante at the Le Bal des Debutantes in Paris in November
Meng adopted her mother’s surname after her parents divorced, according to the South China Morning Post. Her mother, Meng Jun, is the daughter of a former senior official. She has a 21-year-old half-sister, Annabel Yao, who also uses her mother’s surname, the South China Morning Post reports. She also has a brother, Meng Ping.
Annabel Yao is a computer science student at Harvard, according to her Instagram page. She made her debut at the Le Bal des Debutantes in Paris in November, according to the South China Morning Post.
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