SHANGHAI • When news broke yesterday that a top Huawei executive had been arrested in Canada, Ms Meng Wanzhou became one of the most talked-about people online and in social media chat groups.
Born in 1972, Ms Meng, who also goes by the names Sabrina Meng and Cathy Meng, is the chief financial officer of Huawei, the world's largest telecommunications equipment supplier and the world's No. 2 seller of mobile phones.
She was detained by the Canadian authorities in Vancouver last Saturday while in transit, and is facing an extradition request from the United States. Various reports indicated that this could be related to violations of US sanctions on Iran.
The South China Morning Post said Ms Meng had spoken to Hua-wei staff in a recent internal briefing on regulatory compliance. She had said that there may be cases where "the external rules are clear-cut and there is no contention, but the company is totally unable to comply with (them) in actual operations".
"In such cases, after a reasonable decision-making process, one may accept the risk of temporary non-compliance," she said. Also present was her father Ren Zhengfei, a former People's Liberation Army engineer who founded Huawei in 1987.
While Mr Ren, 74, has said that he will not hand over the reins of the company to any of his children, Ms Meng was promoted in March to be one of four vice-chairmen of the Shenzhen-based company, making her a likely heir-apparent.
Though most Chinese people use their father's surname, Ms Meng adopted her mother's family name. According to Chinese media reports, there are at least two versions of how this came about.
One version has it that Mr Ren allowed his daughter to adopt the Meng surname out of respect for his father-in-law. Another says Ms Meng changed her surname of her own accord when she was 16.
After graduating from university in 1992, Ms Meng spent a year working at China Construction Bank before joining the fledgling telecoms equipment company, where she was one of three secretaries.
As she rose through the ranks, she has been the director of the international accounting department, the chief financial officer of Huawei Hong Kong and the president of the accounting management department at the company.
She is married with a son and a daughter, and has a brother who works in a services company affiliated to Huawei.