Shortly after the release of Huawei’s Chinese chief financial officer in Canada, China moved too. Two Canadian businessmen were imprisoned there for espionage.
After almost three years, the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, who was held in Canada, was released after an agreement with the US judiciary. Meng arrived in China on Saturday, according to state media, after a Canadian court suspended extradition proceedings against her and lifted her bail requirements. In return, China released two Canadians imprisoned in the People’s Republic.
The Huawei finance director was arrested in December 2018 at the instigation of the United States on a layover in Vancouver. The US judiciary accused Meng of bank fraud in connection with the Iran sanctions and demanded her extradition. Meng’s lawyers, however, spoke of abuse of procedure. The Chinese government accused the US of targeting Huawei.
“Life turned upside down”
The 49-year-old daughter of the Huawei company founder Ren Zhengfei had to stay under strict conditions in a property in the western Canadian city for almost three years. On Friday, a US court approved an agreement between Meng and the prosecutor.
A Justice Department representative told a federal court in New York that some sort of probation procedure has been agreed. The allegations against the top manager should therefore be suspended and dropped entirely in December 2022 if Meng adheres to the conditions. A court in Vancouver then stopped the extradition proceedings against Meng.
“In the past three years my life has been turned upside down,” Meng told journalists after the hearing. “It was a tough time for me as a mother, wife and manager. But I believe that rain follows sunshine.” The time in Canada was also a “valuable experience” for her. As seen on Canadian television, Meng boarded a plane to the Chinese economic metropolis of Shenzhen on Friday evening.
China called allegations baseless
The Chinese government described the allegations against Meng as baseless and spoke of “political persecution”. “The so-called ‘fraud charge’ against Meng Wanzhou is fictitious,” the state television broadcaster CCTV quoted a spokeswoman for the State Department on Saturday.
The case had sparked a diplomatic crisis between China and Canada. A few days after Meng’s arrest, Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians. Businessman Michael Spavor and ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig were tried in March on charges of espionage.
Canadians released in return
Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison in August for “espionage and the illegal disclosure of state secrets”. The verdict against Kovrig was still pending.
Shortly after Meng’s release, the two Canadians were released on Friday and allowed to leave the country. They arrived in Calgary, western Canada, on Saturday morning. There they were met at the airport by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as seen on CTV.
The arrest of the two Canadians was seen as retaliation for Meng’s detention in Canada and as leverage against the Ottawa government. Canada and other western states accused Beijing of “hostage diplomacy”.
Company under fire
Huawei is one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturers and a leader in 5G technology. The US in particular accuses Huawei of being too close to the Chinese authorities and sees the group as a threat to their cybersecurity. There are also fears of this kind in Germany.
The Chinese group again rejected the US allegations in connection with the Iran sanctions on Saturday. “Huawei will continue to defend itself against the allegations before the US federal court in New York,” said the company.