U.S. Arrests Top Chinese CFO; China Warns Retaliation

Hostages could be taken

The Huawei logo is displayed at a store in Beijing on December 6, 2018.
FRED DUFOUR / Contributor / Getty Images

Tensions between the U.S. and authoritarian China reached dangerous levels this past week with the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer for Huawei Technologies, for allegedly violating sanctions on Iran.

According to Fox News, Meng was taken into custody on behalf of the U.S. by Canadian authorities on Saturday while she was transferring flights in Vancouver. She now faces extradition to the United States. Chinese officials on Thursday said Meng's arrest violates her human rights; experts warn it could lead the communist government to take American hostages in retaliation.

James Lewis, the director of technology policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Axios that American tech executives should avoid China for the time being. "If I was an American tech executive, I wouldn't travel to China this week," warned Lewis.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Thursday called for an "immediate release" of Meng on Thursday. "Detaining a person without providing an explanation has undoubtedly violated her human rights,” Geng said, adding the Chinese government "has made clear our solemn positions to the U.S. and Canada."

Though neither the U.S. nor Canada have provided specific details regarding Meng's arrest, Fox News notes that the Wall Street Journal reported in April that U.S. authorities were investigating Huawei for violating "sanctions on Iran, leading the Chinese government to appeal to Washington to avoid any steps that might have damaged business confidence."

Over in China, an editorial in the Global Times accused the U.S. of “maliciously finding fault” with Huawei.

"Washington is attempting to damage Huawei's international reputation and taking aim at the tech giant's global market in the name of law," the editorial stated. "The Chinese government should seriously mull over the U.S. tendency to abuse legal procedures to suppress China's high-tech enterprises. It should increase interaction with the U.S. and exert pressure when necessary. China has been exercising restraint, but the U.S. cannot act recklessly. U.S. President Donald Trump should rein in the hostile activities of some Americans who may imperil Sino-U.S. relations."

Huawei has a checkered history with the United States going all the way back to the Obama administration, with Washington having previously "pressured European countries and other allies to limit their business with Huawei, alleging the company's technology aids China's spy operations."

Meng is not the only top Chinese executive to face scrutiny during the Trump administration. Most recently, the country's prominent capitalist, billionaire Jack Ma, the head of e-commerce giant Alibaba, was outed as a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. His membership in the Communist Party of China (CPC) was revealed by the People's Daily, official paper of the CPC, as part of a list of the 100 people who have helped drive China through the "reform and opening up" process. Reuters speculated the CPC outed Ma as a means of coercion. According to Fox News, he has openly backed the policies of President Xi Jinping. In 2016, he suggested the government should use big data to prevent crime, which has essentially been used to advance the surveillance state.

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