China summoned the U.S. ambassador to Beijing on Sunday to protest Canada's detention of a senior executive of Chinese electronics giant Huawei at Washington's behest and demand the U.S. cancel an order for her arrest.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng "lodged solemn representations and strong protests" with Ambassador Terry Branstad against the detention of Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. Meng, who is reportedly suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran, was detained on Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver, Canada.
The Xinhua report quoted Le as calling Meng's detention "extremely egregious" and demanded the U.S. vacate an order for her arrest. It quoted Le as calling for the U.S. to "immediately correct its wrong actions" and said it would take further steps based on Washington's response.
The move followed the summoning of Canadian Ambassador John McCallum on Saturday over Meng's detention and a similar warning of "grave consequences" if she is not released.
The Canadian province of British Columbia said in a statement Sunday it canceled a trade mission to China because of Meng's detention. The announcement came amid fears China could detain Canadians in retaliation.
Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns over its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.
Meng's arrest has threatened to increase U.S.-China trade tensions and shook stock markets globally last week. But U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," downplayed the impact of the arrest on trade talks between the two countries aimed at defusing the tensions.
"This is a criminal justice matter," he said. "It is totally separate from anything that I work on or anything that the trade policy people in the administration work on. ... We have a lot of very big, very important issues. We've got serious people working on them, and I don't think they'll be affected by this."
Meng, the daughter of Huawei's founder, was detained on the same day that President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed over dinner to a 90-day cease-fire in the trade dispute.
The surprise arrest raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world's two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.
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 American banks about its business dealings in Iran.
Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said that Chinese pressure on Canada's government won't work.
"Perhaps because the Chinese state controls its judicial system, Beijing sometimes has difficulty understanding or believing that courts can be independent in a rule-of-law country. There's no point in pressuring the Canadian government. Judges will decide," Paris tweeted in response to the comments from Beijing.
A Canadian prosecutor urged a Vancouver court to deny bail to Meng.
Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing Friday that a warrant had been issued for Meng's arrest in New York on Aug. 22. He said Meng, arrested en route to Mexico from Hong Kong, was aware of the investigation and had been avoiding the United States for months, even though her teenage son goes to school in Boston.
Gibb-Carsley alleged that Huawei had done business in Iran through a Hong Kong company called Skycom. Meng, he said, had misled U.S. banks into thinking that Huawei and Skycom were separate when, in fact, "Skycom was Huawei." Meng has contended that Huawei sold Skycom in 2009.
In urging the court to reject Meng's bail request, Gibb-Carsley said the Huawei executive had vast resources and a strong incentive to bolt: She's facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years.
The hearing is to resume Monday.
Huawei, in a brief statement emailed to The Associated Press, said "we have every confidence that the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach the right conclusion."
Canadian officials have declined to comment on Chinese threats of retaliation over the case, instead emphasizing the independence of Canada's judiciary along with the importance of Ottawa's relationship with Beijing.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said Canada "has assured China that due process is absolutely being followed in Canada, that consular access for China to Ms. Meng will absolutely be provided."
"We are a rule-of-law country and we will be following our laws as we have thus far in this matter and as we will continue to do," Freeland said Friday.
While protesting what it calls Canada's violation of Meng's human rights, China's ruling Communist Party stands accused of mass incarcerations of its Muslim minority without due process, locking up people exercising their right to free speech and refusing to allow foreign citizens to leave the country in order to bring pressure on their relatives accused of financial crimes. The party also takes the lead in prosecutions of those accused of corruption or other crimes in a highly opaque process, without supervision from the court system or independent bodies.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies contributed to this report.