Huawei arrest sparks Chinese backlash that could hurt US talks

A number of Chinese companies have posted notices to their social media accounts proclaiming support for Huawei, while offering employees subsidies and other incentives to purchase the firm's products.
A number of Chinese companies have posted notices to their social media accounts proclaiming support for Huawei, while offering employees subsidies and other incentives to purchase the firm's products. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) - Calls to boycott Canadian goods, throw away iPhones and load up on Huawei handsets are among signs of budding public anger in China over the arrest of the Chinese technology giant's chief financial officer in Vancouver.

A number of Chinese companies have posted notices to their social media accounts proclaiming support for Huawei, while offering employees subsidies and other incentives to purchase the firm's products.

Shenzhen-based Menpad also threatened to fine employees if they bought Apple Inc's phones, according to its website, while some social media users offered ideas on how to get rid of iPhones.

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou has grabbed global attention amid concerns her detention could derail talks between the US and China to hammer out a trade deal.

Escalating public outrage in China could leave Beijing little room to compromise as the authorities weigh their desire to buoy the economy against the need to not appear weak at home.

Over the past weekend, the Chinese government separately summoned the ambassadors of Canada and the US to condemn the arrest, including threats of grave consequences.

China's state media have called the arrest a "despicable rogue's approach" and painted the move as a politically motivated effort to contain China's rise.

Canadian authorities detained Meng on Dec 1 on behalf of the US, which alleges she committed fraud to sidestep sanctions against Iran and is seeking her extradition to stand trial.

 
 
 
 

COMPARATIVELY MUTED

Though the sentiment echoes the fury that erupted into anti-Japanese protests and boycotts in 2012 over control of islands claimed by both countries, the reaction to Meng's arrest is still comparatively muted, and has been contained mostly online.

The protests six years earlier saw demonstrators smash Japanese-branded cars, set fire to some showrooms and force the closure of Uniqlo apparel outlets owned by Fast Retailing Co.

On Chinese social media, the US and Canadian embassies' accounts on the Weibo platform have been flooded with comments denouncing the arrest and calling for Meng's release.

Calls have also gone out on Weibo to boycott Canadian brands, including Canada Goose Holdings Inc.

The luxury parka maker, which has plans to launch a flagship store in Beijing, has seen its stock plunge 18 per cent since news of Meng's arrest.

Chinese authorities do appear to be taking steps to rein in the furore, according to a report by China Digital Times.

The US-based outlet, which tracks China's censorship of online content, reported that Chinese media received a government notice to stick to official reporting on the arrest and to "strictly manage comments".

Meanwhile, security outside the US embassy in Beijing is tight. On Tuesday afternoon, at least 10 policemen stood guard in addition to the usual military personnel, accompanied by a german shepherd guard dog.

A police car was seen parked outside the Canadian building this morning, while a police officer patrolled the street.