The Hindu Explains: From Meng Wanzhou to Mekedatu

Who is Meng Wanzhou?

In this undated photo released by Huawei, Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is seen in a portrait photo. China on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, demanded Canada release the Huawei Technologies executive who was arrested in a case that adds to technology tensions with Washington and threatens to complicate trade talks. (Huawei via AP)  

On December 1, Canadian authorities at the Vancouver airport arrested Meng Wanzhou while she was switching to another flight. When the news of her detention broke four days later, it spooked the markets, triggered a wave of anger in China and threatened to impair the ties between Beijing and Washington, which were already on edge following an unresolved trade war.

Why did it create a stir?

Ms. Meng, 46, is the chief financial officer of Huawei. More importantly, she is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei. Besides being the second largest seller of smartphones, upstaging Apple, Huawei is arguably ahead of the United States in 5G technology — the key to an explosive expansion of data-driven Artificial Intelligence.

Why was she arrested?

The Huawei official apparently broke U.S. domestic sanctions law on account of her alleged involvement in selling items containing American technology to Iran, through a shell company registered in Hong Kong. Ms. Meng, who has a strong Canadian connection, is also known as Sabrina Meng and Cathy Meng.

What are her roots?

The scion of the Huawei family has scaled the company’s ranks, starting as a receptionist 25 years ago. Unlike many born with a silver spoon, who would choose an easier path, Ms. Meng persisted with academic pursuits alongside. She earned a master’s degree in accountancy from Huazhong University of Science and Technology. In 1999, she joined Huawei’s finance department, rising to the rank of CFO in 12 years. A month ahead of her arrest, her career took another turn with her appointment as the company’s vice-chair. Her latest elevation fuelled speculation that Ms. Meng was on course to head the multi-billion dollar company. As the legal proceedings began on whether she should be allowed bail, amid speculation that she could be extradited to the U.S., fresh details of Ms. Meng’s personal life, including her connect with Canada, have emerged.

She is the daughter of Mr. Ren’s first wife, Meng Jun. At the age of 16, she intriguingly adopted her mother’s surname — a practice not common among the Chinese, who by default abide by patriarchal norms. Her husband is Liu Xiaozong, and the couple, along with their 10-year-old daughter, have lived in Shenzhen, China’s tech capital. From her first marriage, Ms. Meng has three sons. One of them is a 14-year-old, who lives with his father in Hong Kong. Another teenage boy is studying in Massachusetts. The third is a 20-year-old computer engineer whose place of residence has not been revealed, according to the bail affidavit filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia Vancouver, where Ms. Meng’s case is being heard. The filing also revealed that Ms. Meng is a thyroid cancer survivor, suffers from hypertension, and has a sleep disorder.

What is her Canada connection?

The Huawei executive has a strong link with Canada. She had once immigrated to Canada, but gave up her permanent residency in 2009. Ms. Meng’s 16-year-old son attended school in Vancouver from 2009 to 2012, according to her court deposition. At some point, her daughter also attended kindergarten in Vancouver. Two high-end properties in the neighbourhoods of Dunbar and Shaughnessy in Vancouver are registered in her husband’s name.

What happens now?

Ms. Meng’s detention has come as a reality check on the future of China-U.S. ties. A consensus is emerging that her arrest is the blaring symbol of a “protracted war” for technological leadership between the world’s largest and second largest economies. The brewing Cold War between Beijing and Washington is unlikely to end any time soon.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 1:01:20 PM |

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