OTTAWA • Canada has launched the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to the United States - the latest move in a case that has roiled relations between the North American neighbours and China.
Beijing was quick to react, saying Ottawa's action amounted to a "severe political incident".
Meng, Huawei's chief financial officer and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was changing planes in Vancouver in December when she was detained at Washington's request on suspicion of violating US sanctions on Iran.
"Today, Department of Justice Canada officials issued an Authority to Proceed, formally commencing an extradition process in the case of Ms Meng Wanzhou," the government said in a statement on Friday.
Meng, 47, is due in court on Wednesday, when prosecutors will present the evidence against her and lay out detailed arguments for her extradition.
The decision, the statement said, followed a "thorough and diligent" review which found sufficient evidence to warrant putting the matter before a judge.
At the end of the process - which could last months or even years - Canada's attorney-general will have the final say on whether or not to hand Meng over.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement yesterday the US and Canada were "abusing their bilateral extradition treaty to apply arbitrary coercive measures against Chinese citizens".
"This is a severe political incident," Mr Lu said. China had protested to Canada and sought Meng's release. It also called on the US to drop its arrest warrant and extradition request, he added.
Meng has been released on bail pending the outcome of the hearings.
US prosecutors say that between 2007 and 2017, Meng, Huawei and its subsidiaries sought to mask their business with Iran in violation of American and United Nations sanctions on Teheran.
Meng in particular "repeatedly lied" to bankers about the relationships between the companies, especially with Skycom, a Huawei affiliate in Iran, according to the charges.
That broke the law, justice officials in Washington said, because the Iran business involved US dollar transactions processed by banks through the US.
Huawei and its affiliates lied to the US authorities and obstructed the investigation, court papers say.
The company is also accused of a concerted effort to steal technology related to a phone-testing robot from a T-Mobile USA lab, and of rewarding staff for stealing competitors' secrets.
Huawei has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.
Nine days after Meng's arrest, the Chinese authorities detained two Canadians in what was widely seen as an act of retaliation. A third Canadian had his sentence for drug trafficking upped from 15 years' jail to the death penalty.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has insisted on a strict hands-off approach to the issue, with his justice department stressing on Friday that "Canada is a country governed by the rule of law".