Huawei denies involvement in protest 'scam' involving paid actors

Protesters gathered at Meng Wanzhou's extradition hearing in Canada.

Chinese telecom giant Huawei has denied involvement in an alleged "scam" involving paid actors in Canada protesting the arrest of one of its executives.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, and the daughter of its founder, has been the center of an international extradition saga since December 2018 when she was arrested in Vancouver at the request of the United States.

At her extradition hearing, which began this week in Vancouver, a handful of protesters gathered at the courthouse carrying signs that read "Free Ms. Meng" and "Equal Justice."

In the days following, some of them opened up to the press and on social media, saying they were paid actors.

Ken Bonson, 20, told the Toronto Star that she got a call on Monday from a friend with an offer to make $150, saying, "I was told all I had to do was spare an hour of my time and hold a sign."

"I had no idea what I was going into," she told the outlet. She said it was unclear who the money was coming from, but she remembers thinking: "What am I protesting? What am I doing here?"

Another actress, Julia Hackstaff, told the Associated Press that an acquaintance offered her $100 for a two-hour acting gig via Facebook.

When she arrived, she realized the venue was the British Columbia Supreme Court House and she was given a sign to hold in support of Meng. She said she didn't realize it was a legitimate protest until a reporter started asking her questions.

In a Facebook post, Hackstaff called herself the "victim of a filthy cheap scam."

The Chinese telecom company denied any involvement "with the protestors or supporters" outside of the courthouse.

"Huawei had no involvement with the protestors or supporters outside the Vancouver courthouse and is unaware of any plans by those responsible," a company spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Friday.

A Canadian judge said Thursday a decision would be announced at a later date over whether Meng is sent to the U.S., the AP reported.

Meng's arrest in 2018 stems from fraud charges involving Huawei and subsidiaries regarding alleged dealings with Iran, a violation of EU and US sanctions. She faces extradition to the U.S.

The Chinese Embassy in Canada has repeatedly called for the immediate release of Meng, calling her case "political persecution against a Chinese high-tech enterprise."

Huawei said in a statement Monday that it stands with Meng.

"Huawei has consistently stated, as the case is before the court, it is inappropriate for us to give specific comments on the ongoing legal proceeding. We trust in Canada's judicial system, which will prove Ms. Meng’s innocence," the company said. "Huawei stands with Ms. Meng in her pursuit for justice and freedom. We hope Ms. Meng will be able to be together with her family, colleagues and friends as soon as possible."