China calls on US to end ‘unreasonable crackdown’ on Huawei

Beijing fired back on Tuesday over criminal charges against Chinese telecom giant Huawei, calling them politically motivated and urging the U.S. to stop “unreasonable bashing” of Chinese companies.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou on Monday, alleging that the company stole trade secrets, violated trade sanctions against Iran, committed wire fraud and obstructed justice.

“For some time, the U.S. has been using national power to tarnish and crack down on specific Chinese companies in an attempt to strangle their lawful and legitimate operations,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a statement on Tuesday. “Behind such practices are deep political intentions and manipulations. We strongly urge the U.S. to stop its unreasonable bashing on Chinese companies including Huawei, and treat them objectively and fairly.”

Geng called on the U.S. “to immediately withdraw its arrest warrant for Ms. Meng Wanzhou, refrain from making a formal extradition request, and stop going further down the wrong path.”

Meng was arrested on December 1 in Vancouver by Canadian authorities at the request of the U.S. and is currently out on U.S. $7.6 million bail while awaiting extradition.

On Monday evening, Canada’s Justice Department confirmed that officials had received a formal extradition request from the U.S., Canadian broadcaster CBC reported.

Huawei denied any wrongdoing in a statement Tuesday, saying it was “disappointed to learn of the charges brought against the company.”

Huawei “denies that it or its subsidiary or affiliate have committed any of the asserted violations,” the statement said, adding that the company “is not aware of any wrongdoing of Ms. Meng and believes the U.S. courts will ultimately reach the same conclusion.”

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology spokesman Wen Ku called the legal action against Huawei “unfair” on Tuesday, according to state-run newspaper Global Times, saying that it was an attempt to smear the company without concrete evidence.

The criminal charges came ahead of high-level trade talks between China and the U.S. and seem certain to ratchet up the tension between the world’s two largest economies. Washington will increase tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent if a deal is not struck by a March 2 deadline.

Talks are set to be held in Washington D.C. this week, with the leader of the Chinese delegation, Vice Premier Liu He, scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said at a press briefing on Monday that the Huawei charges and the trade talks were unrelated.

“No, those two things are not linked,” she said. “They are a totally separate process.”

Chinese intellectual property theft from U.S. companies has been one of the key issues in the trade war and Monday’s charges including a 10-count indictment centering around allegations that Huawei brazenly stole robotic technology from Bellevue, Washington-based T-Mobile.

The charges are punishable by a maximum fine of up to $5 million or three times the value of the stolen trade secret, whichever is greater. The charges for wire fraud and obstruction of justice are punishable by a fine of up to $500,000.

Meng’s arrest sparked outrage in Beijing, which appeared to retaliate by detaining former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor shortly afterwards.

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