Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Canada last month and is fighting extradition to the United States. We take a look who she is and what is behind her arrest.
Who is she?
Meng Wanzhou is the 46-year-old daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder, Ren Zhangfe. Also known as Sabrina Meng, she took her last name from her mother. She was born in 1972 in Chengdu. When she was about 10, her family moved south to the city of Shenzhen, which is now the headquarters of Huawei, China’s largest private company. She is married and has four children.
Career at Huawei
Meng joined her father’s firm after she graduated from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 1999 with a master’s in accounting. Her first job was answering phones in the finance department, just six years after Huawei was founded.
As Huawei has grown into China’s largest smartphone and telecommunications equipment maker, Meng rose through the ranks to become the company’s CFO in 2011. She was also named one of four vice-chairs on the Huawei board of directors in 2018, sparking speculation that she was being groomed to one day take over the company. Her father has denied having any such plan.
Huawei, which was founded in 1987, only began to make public the names of its top executives in 2011, according to Reuters. By then, Meng was already a CFO. According to the bio released by the company, she has been involved in a number of Huawei restructuring moves, including centralizing and improving its finance and accounting departments as the company expanded.
In 2018, Forbes magazines rated Meng 12th on its list of top Chinese businesswomen.
Why was she arrested?
Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1. Prosecutors have charged that Meng tried to deceive international business entities by disavowing the links of Huawei to a subsidiary that has done business with China. Canadian prosecutors say that Meng assured U.S. banks that Huawei and a company called Skycom were separate entities, while in fact they were one firm. “Ms. Meng personally represented to those banks that Skycom and Huawei were separate, when in fact they were not separate,” prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said. “Skycom was Huawei.” Gibb-Carsley said the warrant for Meng’s arrest was issued Aug. 22 in New York.
Meng was released on bail and now lives in one of two homes she owns in Vancouver, where her activity is monitored through an ankle bracelet.
U.S.-China trade war
The White House has denied accusations that Meng’s arrest was a way for the United States to gain leverage in trade talks with China. The U.S. has been investigating the world’s largest smartphone maker since 2016, which it suspects of being a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services.