STATE DEPARTMENT - A Canadian judge has set the date for a new hearing in the case of a Chinese executive with the global tech giant Huawei, who U.S. prosecutors are hoping to extradite to face charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.
Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei and daughter of its founder, is due back in court May 8. She stands accused of overseeing transactions that violate U.S. sanctions on Iran. She denies the charges, and her lawyers argued Tuesday that it will take time to develop her defense in part because of political issues and comments by U.S. President Donald Trump.
U.S. officials reject that her extradition case is related to the broader U.S.-China trade talks. The State Department Wednesday told VOA that her case is a law enforcement matter, and Canada is honoring its treaty obligations by considering the U.S. extradition request.
The Canadian court timetable suggests that the Huawei extradition battle could linger beyond the ongoing U.S.-China trade talks aimed at resolving a wide range of American concerns over China’s trade, investment and intellectual property rights policies. Negotiators have indicated talks could wrap up in the coming weeks.
Although U.S. officials say the Huawei CFO court case and the trade talks are entirely separate issues, they point to the deep divisions between the two governments on trade and technology issues.
A U.S. law already prohibits the use of Huawei products in federal agencies “for national security purposes.”
“There’s a real risk,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week, “that the Chinese will use this [Huawei equipment] for purposes that aren’t commercial, that aren’t for private gain, but rather for the state’s benefit.”
On Thursday, local time, Huawei announced it has filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the law that bars government agencies and contractors from doing business with the tech giant.
“We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort,” the company’s chairman, Guo Ping, said in a statement. “This ban not only is unlawful, but also restricts Huawei from engaging in fair competition, ultimately harming U.S. consumers.”
As the trade talks drag on, with few outward signs of significant progress, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, are calling for expanding the ban on Huawei equipment so it cannot be used in U.S. energy infrastructure.
“Huawei has recently become the world’s largest maker of inverters, the sophisticated control systems that have allowed the rapid expansion of residential and utility-scale energy production,” wrote 11 senators in a letter to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
“Our federal government should consider a ban on the use of Huawei inverters in the United States and work with state and local regulators to raise awareness and mitigate potential threats,” the senators wrote.
Several U.S. lawmakers, blasting Huawei’s close ties to the Beijing government, told VOA’s Mandarin service that Huawei “should never be in America doing business” and they will “do whatever we can to block that.”
“[You need to] realize that companies like Huawei and ZTE are wholly subsidiaries of the Chinese Communist Party and therefore we have significant concerns about the extent to which they are able to infiltrate our domestic industry here,” said Republican Congressman from Wisconsin Mike Gallagher.
“We shouldn’t allow Huawei to operate in the U.S.,” said Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio, “They are a state-supported national champion, not only dominate the global telecommunications market in 5G but if compelled by the Chinese government, they will have to turn over data.”
Last month Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei insisted his company has never spied for the government, and he would rather shut down the company than agree to any such request for information. Skeptics point out that no Chinese company can refuse to obey such a government request, because there is no independent judicial system in China for which a company can appeal.
Yihua Lee and Xu Ning from VOA's Mandarin Service contributed to this report.