TORONTO (AP) — Canada said Friday it will allow the U.S. extradition case against Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to proceed.
Canadian Department of Justice officials issued a statement saying they diligently reviewed the evidence and the case can go ahead.
Meng is due in court on March 6, at which time a date for her extradition hearing will be set. The decision to proceed is a formality and allows a judge to hear arguments on whether to grant the U.S. request.
Canada arrested the daughter of Huawei’s founder at the request of the U.S. on Dec. 1 at Vancouver’s airport. Meng is wanted on fraud charges that she misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.
“There is sufficient evidence to be put before an extradition judge for decision,” the statement said. It took pains to stress Canada is following its extradition laws. Ultimately, Canada’s justice minister must decide if Meng is extradited.
The case set off a diplomatic furor among the three countries, complicated high-stakes U.S.-China trade talks and severely damaged Beijing’s relations with Ottawa.
In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday it “firmly opposes the Canadian side’s obstinately moving forward” with the case against Meng. It called the case a “severe political incident” and said the United States and Canada were abusing their extradition treaty.
China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng. A Chinese court also sentenced a Canadian to death in a sudden retrial, overturning a 15-year prison term handed down earlier. Kovrig and Spavor haven’t had access to a lawyer since being arrested.
Meng is out on bail in Canada and living in one of her two Vancouver mansions awaiting extradition proceedings.
David Martin, Meng’s lawyer, said in a statement: “We are disappointed that the Minister of Justice has decided to issue an Authority to Proceed in the face of the political nature of the U.S. charges and where the President of the United States has repeatedly stated that he would interfere in Ms. Meng’s case if he thought it would assist the U.S negotiations with China over a trade deal.”
Martin also said the charges against Meng are not crimes in Canada and that his client maintains her innocence.
China’s embassy said it was “utterly dissatisfied.”
“This is not a merely judicial case, but a political persecution against a Chinese high-tech enterprise,” the embassy said in a statement.
Huawei, the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies, is a focus of U.S. security concerns. Washington has pressured other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.
The U.S. and China have tried to keep Meng’s case separate from their wider trade dispute, but President Donald Trump has undercut that intent, saying he would consider intervening in the case against Meng if it would be in the interest of U.S. national security or help forge a trade deal with Beijing.
“Judging from the obvious political interference presented on this case, if Canada really abides by the principle of rule of law and judiciary independence, the Canadian side should refuse the extradition request of the United States and immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou,” the Chinese embassy added.
U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman said the Justice Department pursues cases “free of any political interference and follows the evidence and rule of law in pursuing criminal charges.”
Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said Chinese authorities are not interested in hearing about how Canada is bound by its extradition case with the U.S.
Saint-Jacques said China might apply further pressure on Canada now.