Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive whose arrest in Vancouver badly strained Canada-China relations went to court on Monday to fight extradition to the United States.
Meng, the chief financial officer of the telecom giant and eldest daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei, is wanted by US authorities for alleged fraud.
She made no comment as she rushed past journalists and protesters waving “Free Meng” and “Trump stop bullying us” placards outside the British Columbia Supreme Court. Her husband and Chinese consular officials sat in a packed gallery to watch the proceedings.
In order to secure her freedom, Meng, known as the “princess of Huawei,” must convince a Canadian judge that the US charges — linked to alleged violations of US sanctions on Iran — would not stand up in Canada and are politically motivated.
The US alleges Meng lied to HSBC Bank about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Tehran.
“Simply put, there is evidence she deceived HSBC in order to induce it to continue to provide banking services to Huawei,” the Canadian justice department said in court filings.
Meng has denied the allegations. She has been out on bail, living in one of her two Vancouver mansions for the past year.
Earlier, China’s foreign ministry called Meng’s extradition case a “grave political incident” and urged Ottawa to release the Huawei executive in order to normalize relations.
“The US and Canada are abusing their bilateral extradition treaty,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa would not interfere in the case, adding that Canada “honors its extradition treaty commitments.”
The Canadian justice department has said it will justify extradition by arguing that the US accusations against Meng would be considered a crime in Canada if they had occurred there — a key test known as double criminality.
Her lawyers, however, will counter that misrepresentations, if they occurred, do not amount to fraud, and that Canada has not matched the US sanctions against Iran.
“Sanctions drive this case,” lead defense lawyer Richard Peck said in an opening statement.
“This case is founded on allegations of breach of US sanctions, which Canada has repudiated,” he said.