China pressures US, Canada ahead of Huawei hearing
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — China raised the pressure on the United States and Canada as a bail hearing resumed Monday for a top Chinese technology executive in a case that has fueled U.S.-China trade tensions and roiled financial markets.
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and daughter of its founder, was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 1 — the same day that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China agreed to a 90-day cease-fire in a trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce.
The U.S. alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also says that Meng and Huawei misled banks about the company's business dealings in Iran.
Her arrest has fueled U.S.-China trade tensions at a time when the two sides are seeking to resolve a dispute over Beijing's technology and industrial strategy. Both sides have sought to keep the issues separate, at least so far, but the arrest has roiled markets, with stock markets worldwide down again Monday.
China formally protested to the ambassadors of both Canada and the United States over the weekend.
David Martin, Meng's lawyer, called a representative from a surveillance company to help ensure Meng won't flee if released. Martin said Meng, who has agreed to wear an ankle monitor, will cover the expenses. Scott Filer of the surveillance company said his company would make a citizen's arrest if she breaches bail conditions.
The hearing has sparked widespread interest, and the courtroom was packed again Monday with media and spectators, including some who came to support Meng. One man in the courtroom gallery brought binoculars to have a closer look at Meng, her lawyers and the prosecution team. Outside court a man and woman held a sign that read "Free Ms. Meng."
Over the weekend, China's Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canadian Ambassador John McCallum and U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad.
Le warned both countries that Beijing would take steps based on their response. Asked Monday what those steps might be, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said only that "it totally depends on the Canadian side itself."
The Canadian province of British Columbia has already canceled a trade mission to China amid fears China could detain Canadians in retaliation for Meng's detention.
Stocks around the world fell Monday over investor concerns about the continuing U.S.-China trade dispute, as well as the cloud hanging over Brexit negotiations after Britain's prime minister postponed a vote on her deal for Britain to exit the European Union. U.S. indexes recovered some ground in afternoon trading after a sharp morning drop.
Commercial retaliation against firms from countries at odds with China has grown increasingly common as Beijing exercises its leverage as the world's second-largest economy.
Such movements are almost certainly countenanced by the ruling Communist Party. The government doesn't confirm its role to avoid damaging its image as a champion of free trade.
Huawei, the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies, has become the target of U.S. security concerns because of its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.
Lu, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, accused unnamed countries of hyping the "so-called" threat. "I must tell you that not a single piece of evidence have they ever presented to back their allegation," he said. "To create obstacles for companies' normal operations based on speculation is quite absurd."
Canadian officials have declined to comment on Chinese threats of retaliation, instead emphasizing the independence of Canada's judiciary and the importance of Ottawa's relationship with Beijing.
While protesting what it calls Canada's violation of Meng's human rights, the Communist Party is regularly accused by outsiders of rights violations at home. They include the widespread internment of Muslims in restive regions without due process to refusing to allow citizens of other countries to leave China to pressure their Chinese relatives living overseas and accused of financial crimes.