China has urged the United States and Canada to “clarify” the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer.
The daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecoms giant was arrested in Vancouver on 1 December and could face extradition to the US.
Details of the arrest have not been released but the US has been investigating Huawei over possible violation of sanctions against Iran.
China demanded her release, saying her detention was possibly a rights abuse.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson told reporters: “The detention without giving any reason violates a person’s human rights.”
“We have made solemn representations to Canada and the US, demanding that both parties immediately clarify the reasons for the detention, and immediately release the detainee to protect the person’s legal rights.”
The focus of China’s protest will likely astonish campaigners who have criticised Beijing’s own record on rights issues. Amnesty International says there are “serious threats to human rights” in China and “anyone who speaks out against the authorities faces harassment, arrest and detention”.
Huawei is one of the largest telecommunications equipment and services providers in the world, recently passing Apple to become the second-biggest smartphone maker after Samsung.
Ms Meng has sought a publication ban on the details of the arrest, which has been granted by the courts. Huawei said it had little information about the charges and was “not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng”.
European shares hit a two-year low and indexes across Asia dropped sharply following the arrest.
Meanwhile, Ms Meng’s arrest comes at a sensitive time for US-China relations. The nations are engaged in a trade war that has seen both impose duties of billions of dollars on one another’s goods.
But concerns the arrest would impact the 90-day tariff truce negotiated between the two nations at the G20 have not yet materialised. China announced in a regular press briefing on Thursday that it would “immediately” implement the measures agreed.
It also coincides with moves to restrict the use of Huawei technology in Western countries. The US, Australia and New Zealand have blocked the use of the Chinese firm’s equipment in infrastructure for new faster 5G mobile networks.
Canada’s ministry of justice confirmed the date and place of Ms Meng’s arrest and added: “She is sought for extradition by the United States, and a bail hearing has been set for Friday.”
It said it could not say more as Ms Meng had sought a ban on the publication of details and this had been ordered by the courts.
A spokesman for the US justice department in the Eastern District of New York – which Huawei said had brought the charges – declined to comment.
US media have reported that Huawei is under investigation for potential violations of US sanctions against Iran.