Chinese tech princess in Canadian limbo

Foreign Affairs


Photo credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, was arrested in December 2018 in Vancouver at the request of the U.S. Justice Department for alleged violations of Iran sanctions. Meng is the daughter of the company’s secretive founder, Rén Zhèngfēi 任正非. In April 2018, it was first reported that the U.S. government had begun investigating Huawei for sanctions violations.

Huawei is also seen as a security threat by the Trump administration. The argument is essentially that any network infrastructure built by Huawei will be exposed to snooping or even control by the Chinese Communist Party.

Aside from Meng’s arrest, the Trump administration applied pressure on Huawei in various other ways over the course of 2018 and 2019, such as blacklisting the company and banning American firms from selling to it. China retaliated against Canada by arresting two Canadian citizens — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — on trumped-up charges. They are still being held incommunicado, although China says their cases have been “handed over to prosecutors.”

Meng continues to wait for news about her fate. Agence France-Presse via The Guardian reports:

The Canadian court tussle over the arrest of a Huawei telecoms executive has been put in limbo after a judge adjourned the case that pits the United States against China…

“I’m reserving judgement,” British Columbia supreme court Justice Heather Holmes said at the end of a four-day hearing…

Four days of legal arguments this week focused on whether the U.S. charges would stand up in Canada, a key test for extradition. Appeals by either side could also drag out the case — which has strained relations between the world’s two largest economies — for years.

The fate of the two Canadians is unknown to anyone outside the opaque Chinese security system. The latest news on them: The AFP report linked above notes that last week “Justin Trudeau rejected domestic calls to free Meng in a ‘prisoner swap’ for Kovrig and Spavor.”

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