Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei Technologies Co., broke his silence this week on the arrest in Canada of his daughter Meng Wanzhou, as the reclusive billionaire took the rare step of meeting with media twice to defuse suspicions about his company.
Ren provided new details about the Dec. 1 arrest in the second interview Thursday with a group of Chinese media. Ren said Meng was en route to Argentina for a conference that Ren attended.
“Meng and I were supposed to attend a meeting in Argentina, where she was to be a main host,” Ren told media. “Unfortunately, she was detained while transferring in Canada. I departed two days later and transited in other place.”
Previous media reports had Meng changing planes in Canada on the way to Mexico. Flights from Vancouver to Argentina normally need to transit in the U.S. or Mexico.
Ren didn’t detail what meeting the two were to attend. But a person close to Huawei told Caixin it was most likely regarding Huawei’s plan to restructure its overseas units. Huawei has been operating a South America headquarters in Buenos Aires since 2013, and the unit was selected for a pilot program of Huawei’s revamp granting independence to overseas subsidiaries.
Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver on the request of the U.S., which accused her of cheating American banks and violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Meng’s arrest was a major blow to Huawei, which is under a darkening cloud of allegations abroad over security concerns.
Meng was released on bail 10 days later and is waiting in Vancouver for the extradition procedure, which may lead her to stand trial in the U.S.
Ren thanked the Chinese government for providing consular protection to Meng and said he speaks with her.
“Over the phone, we just make some jokes,” he said. “Wanzhou is also very strong.”
Meng’s arrest set off an international political firestorm involving China, Canada and the U.S. Shortly after her arrest, China’s foreign affairs ministry summoned Canadian and U.S. ambassadors in China to express objections.
Paul Triolo, analyst at Eurasia Group, said that although China and the U.S. have said Meng’s arrest has nothing to do with ongoing Sino-American trade disputes, it is possible that the incident will become an issue to be discussed in trade war settlement talks.