Huawei executives’ extradition hearing begins in Canada
VANCOUVER – The first stage of an extradition hearing for a senior executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei began in a Vancouver courtroom on Tuesday, a case that infuriated Beijing, sparked a diplomatic outcry between China and Canada and complex trade negotiations between China. and the United States.
Canada’s arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of legendary Huawei founder, at the end of 2018, at the behest of the United States, angered Beijing to the point of detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation.
Huawei represents China’s progress in becoming a technological powerhouse and has been the subject of security concerns in the United States for years. Beijing sees Meng’s case as an attempt to contain China’s rise to power.
“Our government has been clear. We are a country of the rule of law and we are honoring our commitments under the extradition treaty, ”said Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland during a Cabinet retreat in Manitoba. “This is what we have to do and what we are going to do.”
China’s Foreign Ministry complained on Monday that the United States and Canada were violating Meng’s rights and called for his release.
“This is completely a serious political incident,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. He urged Canada to “correct the mistakes with concrete actions, release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and let her return safely as soon as possible.”
Washington accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions. He claims that Meng, 47, committed fraud by deceiving HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.
Meng, who is out on bail and lives in one of two mansions she owns in Vancouver, sat next to her lawyers, wearing a black dress with white polka dots. Previously, she greeted reporters upon arriving at court.
Meng denies the allegations. Her defense team said President Donald Trump’s comments suggest the case against her is politically motivated.
“We trust the Canadian justice system, which will prove Ms. Meng’s innocence,” Huawei said in a statement early in the proceedings.
Meng was arrested in December 2018 in Vancouver while changing flights – the same day Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for trade talks.
Prosecutors have pointed out that Meng’s case is separate from the larger Sino-U.S. Trade dispute, but Trump undermined that message weeks after his arrest when he said he would consider intervening in the case if it allowed. to conclude a trade agreement with Beijing.
China and the United States reached a “phase 1” trade deal last week, but most analysts believe that any meaningful resolution to the main US claim – that Beijing is using predatory tactics in its attempt to supplant America’s technological supremacy – may require years of controversial discussions. Trump had raised the possibility of using Huawei’s fate as a bargaining chip in trade talks, but the deal announced Wednesday did not mention the company.
Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of network equipment for mobile phone and Internet companies. Washington is pressuring other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could open up to surveillance and theft.
James Lewis, of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the United States wanted to send a message with Meng’s arrest. There is good evidence that Huawei willfully violated the sanctions, he said.
“The message that you are no longer invulnerable has been sent to the Chinese leadership,” Lewis said. “No one held China responsible. They steal technology, they violate their WTO commitments, and the old phrase is, “Oh, it’s a developing economy, whatever”. When you’re the second largest economy in the world, you can’t do that anymore. “
The initial stage of Meng’s extradition hearing will focus on whether Meng’s alleged crimes are crimes in both the United States and Canada. His lawyers filed a motion on Friday, saying Meng’s case was actually about US sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. Canada does not have similar sanctions against Iran.
“This extradition has all the guises of the United States seeking to enlist Canada to enforce the very sanctions that we have rejected,” Meng’s attorney, Richard Peck, said in court.
The second phase, scheduled for June, will examine defense claims that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated his rights while collecting evidence prior to his arrest.
The extradition case could take years to be resolved if there are any appeals. Almost 90% of those arrested in Canada on extradition requests from the United States were turned over to American authorities between 2008 and 2018.
In apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, China has arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. Both men have been denied access to lawyers and their families and are being held in prison cells where lights are on 24 hours a day.
China has also imposed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seeds and meat. Last January, China also sentenced a convicted Canadian drug dealer to death in a new trial.
“It’s mafia-type pressure,” Lewis said.
Gillies reported from Toronto
Jim Morris and Rob Gillies, The Associated Press