China roundup: Meng Wanzhou’s release and Huawei’s future

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China roundup, a review of recent events influencing the Chinese IT environment and their implications for the rest of the world.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s top financial officer, was released from house detention in Vancouver on Friday following a breakthrough agreement with the US Justice Department. Momenta, a Daimler-backed autonomous driving firm, Nreal, an augmented reality business, and Hai Robotics, a warehouse robotics manufacturer, are among the Chinese startups that have announced significant fundraising rounds this week.

Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, reached an arrangement with the US Justice Department in which she admitted to some misconduct in exchange for prosecutors deferring wire and bank fraud charges against her until 2022.

Meng was detained in Vancouver, Canada, in 2018 on suspicion of breaking US trade restrictions against Iran. Her situation has become a thorn in strained US-China relations over the years. China released two Canadians who had been jailed on spying accusations around the time Meng left for Shenzhen, where Huawei’s headquarters are located, on Friday.

Beijing has rejected any link between the two Canadians’ incarceration and Meng’s arrest on several occasions.

Meng pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and wire fraud in a video court appearance on Friday. She did, however, admit to the basic facts that underpin the DOJ’s charges, which include “multiple material misrepresentations to a senior executive of a financial institution regarding Huawei’s business operations in Iran in order to preserve Huawei’s banking relationship with the financial institution.”

“Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, admitted today that she lied to the financial institution about Huawei’s operations in Iran, and as a result, the financial institution continued to do business with Huawei in violation of US law. In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the DOJ’s Criminal Division stated, “Our prosecution team is continuing to prepare for trial against Huawei, and we look forward to establishing our case against the business in court.”

Meng’s admission of wrongdoings was mostly ignored by Chinese news agencies, and internet users rejoiced at the Huawei executive’s release after three years. On the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, posts with the hashtag #MengWanzhouReturningToMotherland had over 1 billion views in just a few hours.

“We eagerly anticipate Meng Wanzhou’s safe return home to be reunited with her family. “Huawei will continue to defend itself in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the allegations,” the firm stated in a statement.