When news broke on Thursday (Dec 6) that a top Huawei executive has been arrested in Canada, Ms Meng Wanzhou became one of the most talked-about persons in online chatter and social media chat groups.
Born in 1972, Ms Meng, who also goes by Sabrina Meng and Cathy Meng, is the chief financial officer of Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment supplier and the world’s No. 2 seller of mobile phones.
She was detained by the Canadian authorities in Vancouver on Dec 1 while in transit and is facing an extradition request from the United States.
Various reports indicated that this could be related to violations of US sanctions on Iran.
The South China Morning Post said that Ms Meng has spoken to Huawei staff in a recent internal briefing on regulatory compliance.
She had said that there may be cases where “the external rules are clear-cut and there’s no contention, but the company is totally unable to comply with in actual operations”.
“In such cases, after a reasonable decision-making process, one may accept the risk of temporary non-compliance,” she was quoted as saying.
This briefing was conducted alongside her father, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei.
While the 74-year-old patriarch of the Chinese technology giant has said that he will not hand over the reins of the company to any of this children, Ms Meng was promoted in March this year to be one of four vice-chairs of the Shenzhen-based firm, making her a likely heir apparent.
Though most Chinese people use their fathers’ surnames, Ms Meng adopted her mother’s family name.
According to Chinese media reports, there are at least two versions on how this came about.
One version has it that Mr Ren allowed his daughter to adopt the Meng surname out of respect for his father-in-law.
Another version says Ms Meng changed her surname of her own accord when she was 16.
After graduating from university in 1992, Ms Meng spent a year working at China Construction Bank before joining the fledgling telecoms equipment company.
In her early years at Huawei, she dealt mostly with administrative matters such as taking phone calls, typing, and producing product catalogues, as one of three secretaries in the company.
In the late 1990s, she earned a master’s degree in accountancy from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, central Hubei province, before returning to Huawei to helm the finance department.
Over the years, she has been director of the international accounting department, chief financial officer of Huawei Hong Kong and president of the accounting management department at the company.
She is married with a son and daughter and has a brother who works in a services company affiliated to Huawei.