Canada has arrested the chief financial officer of Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant at the centre of a spying row, as US authorities seek to extradite her.
Wanzhou Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Saturday, it emerged on Wednesday night. American prosecutors are seeking to have her moved to the US as it investigates whether the company broke trade sanctions against Iran.
It comes amid deepening suspicions of Huawei in the UK and elsewhere. On Wednesday, BT said it would remove the company’s equipment from its networks within two years, after more than a decade using it.
Huawei was founded by Ren Zhengfei, a former member of China’s People’s Liberation Army, and has been consistently met with suspicion in the West. Its equipment is banned in the US and Australia and in the UK it is rigorously tested by the Government at a guarded facility.
Ms Meng is one of Huawei’s top executives and its deputy chairman, as well as Mr Ren's daughter.
Beijing on Wednesday protested the arrest of the Chinese national and urged her immediate release.
"The Chinese side firmly opposes and strongly protests over such kind of actions which seriously harmed the human rights of the victim," a statement said.
"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."
A spokesman for Canada's Justice Department said : “Wanzhou Meng was arrested in Vancouver on December 1. 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.”
Earlier this week, the head of MI6 Alex Younger raised concerns about the company, saying Britain would have to make a decision about whether it was willing to have Huawei equipment in the next generation of mobile internet networks.
“We need to decide the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies and these platforms in an environment where some of our allies have taken a very definite position,” he said.
A Huawei spokesman said: “Recently, our corporate CFO, Ms. Meng Wanzhou, was provisionally detained by the Canadian Authorities on behalf of the United States of America, which seeks the extradition of Ms. Meng Wanzhou to face unspecified charges in the Eastern District of New York, when she was transferring flights in Canada.
“The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng. The company believes the Canadian and US legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion.
“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.”