Meng Wanzhou: Trudeau rejects calls to free Huawei chief executive

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an outdoor press conference in April 2020Image copyright
AFP via Getty


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces pressure to secure the release of the two detained Canadians

Canada’s Prime Minister is rejecting calls to intervene to end the extradition trial of a Chinese Huawei executive.

Justin Trudeau said doing so would “endanger” Canadians abroad by opening them to possible random detention.

Two Canadians were arrested shortly after Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Vancouver at the request of the United States.

Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, have been held in China since December 2018.

Their arrests came just days after Meng’s arrest in what critics have seen as an act of “hostage diplomacy.”

Canada calls his arrests “arbitrary,” and on Thursday, Trudeau said there was a “direct link,” but China denied they were retaliatory for Meng’s arrest.

His arrest has soured relations between Canada and China.

The US authorities accuse her of breaking Iranian sanctions and she is currently fighting against extradition to the United States.

Last week, China accused Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor of spying, more than 18 months after their arrest.

What did Trudeau say?

“We deplore what China did” in arresting the two men, Trudeau said Thursday.

But he told reporters in Ottawa that if a foreign power thinks it can exert political pressure on Canada by arresting its citizens, “all Canadians who travel internationally become vulnerable.”

Image copyright


Michael Spavor (left) and Michael Kovrig have been detained since December 2018

Trudeau was responding to pressure from a group of prominent former Canadian MPs and diplomats, and from some members of the family of the detained men, to end Ms. Meng’s extradition procedures.

In a letter to Mr. Trudeau, released by Canada’s CBC public broadcaster, the group said: “The two Michaels were taken in direct retaliation for the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou.”

“We believe the two Michaels will remain in their Chinese prison cells until Meng is free to return to China.”

While they said “no one likes to give in to harassment or blackmail … resisting pressure from China is no guarantee that it will never be applied again in the future.”

Trudeau has also faced calls for more punitive measures, including sanctions on Chinese officials.

What did China say?

China has called Ms. Meng’s case “a serious political incident” and has called for her immediate release.

Beijing has not explicitly linked its arrest to the two detained Canadians, although their cases are often brought together by spokesmen for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

  • The life of Huawei’s high-flying heiress
  • Meng Wanzhou ‘irreplaceable’, says Huawei executive

On Wednesday, spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Chinese authorities had seen reports that Kovrig’s family had obtained a legal opinion indicating that Canada’s justice minister had the authority to stop Meng’s extradition process at any time.

“Such options are within the rule of law and could open space for resolution of the situation of the two Canadians,” he said.

What is the bottom line?

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei and daughter of the company’s founder, was arrested on December 1, 2018 in Vancouver.

Image copyright


People protest outside the Meng Wanzhou extradition hearing in Canada

Her arrest was requested by the United States Department of Justice, which accused her of violating Iranian sanctions. She is still fighting against extradition to the United States.

The United States has rated Huawei as a security risk and has prohibited the sale of its products. American politicians are also pressuring allies, including Canada, to block Huawei from their markets.

Huawei has said it trusts Canada’s court system “that it will prove Meng’s innocence.”

Last month, a Canadian court ruled that his case could go forward.

On December 10, 2018, the two Canadians were detained in China. They were formally arrested in May 2019.

Canada is using public and private pressure to secure his release, Trudeau said, and has pressured many of his allies to speak out in support of Spavor and Kovrig, including Australia, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the charges against the two men “politically motivated and completely unfounded.”