Huawei’s chief financial officer is accusing Canadian authorities of violating her rights when they detained her on behalf of the US government.
Meng Wanzhou has filed a civil lawsuit in Canada alleging that she was unlawfully detained and questioned for three hours without being advised of her constitutional rights, and that her electronic equipment and luggage were illegally searched before she was told she was under arrest.
Lawyers for Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder, filed the lawsuit Friday and made the documents available to journalists on Sunday. She is seeking punitive damages and costs.
The allegations relate to Meng’s arrest at Vancouver International Airport on December 1. The detention of one of China’s top tech executives at the request of the US government set off a political firestorm. In China, many viewed her arrest as a political move by the Trump administration to gain leverage in the clash between the two countries over trade and technology.
Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker and one of the biggest smartphone brands alongside Samsung and Apple (AAPL). The Chinese company is a key player in the rollout of next-generation wireless technology, or 5G. But the United States, long wary of Huawei, is pressuring allies to limit the company’s participation in 5G networks, saying it poses a national security threat.
Citing Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government, Washington says Beijing could use the company’s equipment to spy on other nations, although it hasn’t provided specific evidence to back up the accusations. Huawei denies that any of its products pose national security risks and says it would refuse any request by Beijing to use them for espionage.
The US government has also indicted Meng and Huawei on charges of bank fraud and sanctions evasion, and has formally requested her extradition from Canada.
Meng and Huawei both deny the charges. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday in Vancouver, where she has been released on bail with restrictions on her freedom of movement.
Seizing Meng’s electronic devices, including an iPad
The suit filed Friday by Meng’s lawyers accuses Canadian authorities of using a routine border check at the Vancouver airport to unlawfully subject her “to a detention, search and interrogation to extract evidence from her before she was arrested.”
After Meng got off a flight from Hong Kong, officers from the Canada Border Services Agency stopped her and told her to surrender all her electronic devices, which included “two personal cellphones, an iPad, and a personal computer,” according to the lawsuit. Officers later asked for the devices’ passwords, which Meng surrendered believing she had no choice as the officials “intentionally failed to advise her of the true reasons for her detention, her right to counsel, and her right to silence.”
Only after searching and questioning her did the border officers turn her over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which formally arrested her.
As a direct result of the detention, Meng suffered damages including mental distress, anxiety and loss of liberty, the lawsuit says. She has severe hypertension, for which she was hospitalized after her arrest.
The lawsuit is “alleging serious breaches of her constitutional rights and seeking damages for misfeasance in public office and false imprisonment,” Howard Mickleson, one of Meng’s lawyers, said in a statement.
Lawyers representing the RCMP and Canada Border Services didn’t respond to requests for comment outside of regular office hours.
Huawei declined to comment on Meng’s lawsuit.
At a regular news briefing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated Beijing’s position that Canada and the United States “abused their bilateral extradition treaty” and “severely infringed” Meng’s rights.
He urged the US government to withdraw the arrest warrant and extradition request for Meng, and the Canadian government to immediately release her.
Taylor Romine, Tony Marco and Nanlin Fang contributed to this report.