Social media lit up in celebration of Meng’s return, reports What’s on Weibo, with the top trending hashtags receiving billions of views. “Many called her a national hero, and hailed her return as a symbol of China’s victory over the West,” per CNN.
- “After more than 1,000 days of suffering, I finally returned to the embrace of my motherland,” Meng said in a brief speech on a red carpet in Shenzhen, referring to herself (in Chinese) as an “ordinary Chinese citizen.”
- “She was arrested because of a rising China,” said state media Xinhua, adding, “So was her release!”
Why was Meng released?
Contra Xinhua, the answer might lie partly in legal details: According to two sources cited by the NYT, neither Meng nor the U.S. Justice Department “felt entirely sure they would win the fight over extraditing her,” so there was incentive for both parties to strike a deal.
- The fact that the U.S. is continuing its criminal case against Huawei, despite giving up on Meng, may further support “an inference that the decision was in part based on uncertainty regarding extradition outcome,” legal scholar Maggie Lewis noted.
But politics also could have played a part: A demand to “drop the extradition of Meng Wanzhou” was one of the key points of a “list of wrongdoings” that China gave the U.S. back in July. And though the Biden administration officially holds that the Justice Department deal with Meng was independently arranged, the Wall Street Journal writes that it “demonstrated a little-noticed pragmatic dimension to the relationship.”
- Regardless of whether the White House coordinated the deal with Meng, it resolves a major pressure point in U.S.-China relations, and comes after several other moves to resolve irritants in the relationship: “U.S. consulates in China have approved tens of thousands of visas for Chinese students; the Justice Department in July withdrew charges against five visiting researchers accused of hiding their affiliations with China’s military; and U.S. agencies have halted actions against Chinese technology products the Trump administration had labeled national-security risks,” such as WeChat and TikTok.
- Canadians, Chinese executive return home in prisoner swap / AP
“Meng’s been out on bail living in a multimillion-dollar mansion in Vancouver since her arrest while the two Canadians were held in Chinese prison cells for over 1,000 days where the lights were kept on 24 hours a day.”
- To get back arrested executive, China uses a hardball tactic: Seizing foreigners / NYT (paywall)
“‘Trump made matters worse on several occasions by implying that Huawei could be simply another U.S. bargaining chip in the trade negotiations,’ John Bolton, who had served as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, wrote in his memoir.”
- If China hadn’t targeted white Canadians, would Chinese-Canadian relations be business as usual? / The Star Vancouver
Joanna Chiu wrote in August that the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, along with another Canadian accused of drug smuggling “seemed to take Canada and the wider Western world by surprise” — but only because it “had been widely ignorant of the many times China had taken foreigners of Asian descent as political prisoners.”
- Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor, and China’s history of hostage diplomacy / SupChina
- China’s tactic to catch a fugitive official: Hold his two american children / NYT (from 2018)
- China travel: Americans and other Westerners are increasingly scared of traveling there as threat of detention rises / CNN (from March 2021)
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Meng Wanzhou had been under house arrest in Vancouver. She was in fact out on bail, and able to travel freely around the Vancouver area within designated hours and parameters.