Canada says it will allow an extradition hearing to proceed against the chief financial officer of China's Huawei Technologies, paving the way for a legal battle that could complicate the Canadian and U.S. relationships with China.
Canada's Department of Justice announced Friday that a date for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's extradition hearing would be set in a Vancouver courtroom on March 6.
"The department is satisfied that ... there is sufficient evidence to be put before an extradition judge for decision," it said.
The Chinese Embassy in Canada said it was "utterly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes" the decision to allow the case to proceed.
Lawyers for Meng said she maintains her innocence, and they called the U.S. extradition request an abuse of the legal process.
Meng was arrested at the request of the United States as she changed planes in Vancouver in December. She is wanted by Washington on charges that she conspired to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Bilateral ties harmed
The case has damaged China's relationship with Canada. After Meng's detention, China arrested two Canadians on national security grounds, and a Chinese court sentenced to death a Canadian man who previously had only been jailed for drug smuggling.
China has repeatedly called on Canada to release Meng, but Canada has refused, saying the case is a legal matter, not a political one.
It could be months or even years before Meng, who is under house arrest in Canada, is sent to the United States, since many decisions can be appealed in the Canadian justice system.
U.S. President Donald Trump suggested last year that the United States could cut a deal with China to secure Meng's release. However, since then the U.S. Justice Department has unsealed its indictment against Meng and Huawei, and Trump has played down the idea of dropping the charges.