The arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada last December for alleged violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran has since set off a diplomatic crisis between Canada and China. Following her arrest, Beijing detained 13 Canadians, including former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor on suspicion of harming national security. It also unearthed an older drug-smuggling case involving Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was sentenced to death last week after a one-day retrial determined his previous 15-year sentence too lenient. Observers have argued that these three instances of arbitrary detentions and sentencings are all potentially related to the Huawei case. Now, the U.S. is set to file a formal request to Canada to extradite Meng, a move that Beijing immediately rebuked. The BBC reports:
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Tuesday said both countries had made a “serious mistake” and urged the US to “withdraw its arrest order for Ms. Meng Wanzhou and refrain from making formal extradition request to the Canadian side”.
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported late on Monday that US officials have indicated to David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador in Washington, that they plan to proceed with the extradition request of the Huawei executive.
Under Canadian law, the US has 60 days to file its formal request, a deadline that will be reached 30 January.
At the South China Morning Post, Sarah Zheng and Catherine Wong cite academics’ opinions on what they expect to happen next:
[Hofstra Law professor Julian Ku said:] “I wonder, though, whether the Chinese government’s claims that Meng was arrested for ‘no reason’ will fall flat once more and more evidence is revealed against her in the court proceedings.”
Stephen Nagy, a Canadian politics and international studies professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo, said the legal process for Meng’s extradition could take six months or more to examine the allegations levelled against her.
“This will take some time,” he said. “This will be a challenge in terms of China-Canadian relations because China is demanding a change now, which means I think China will continue to put pressure on Canada, on Canadian citizens like Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, but also people of similar backgrounds.
[…] Shi Yinhong, international relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said the Chinese government would continue to push for Meng’s release, regardless of whether the US formally submitted its extradition request or if the Canadian court decided to extradite her.
“At the moment, China has not taken direct measures against the US for Meng’s arrest, but if she is extradited to the US and even charged, they may take direct retaliatory measures or they may not,” he said. [Source]
CTV News cites concerns raised by Brett Bruen—who was director of global engagement under the Obama Administration—regarding continuing repercussions from Trump’s foreign policy approach of “bullying and being braggadocious”:
“The Trump administration has practiced — not only with the indictment of this Huawei executive, but also with a number of intelligence officials and other foreign actors — this policy of aggressively pursuing the enemies of the United States,” Bruen said.
The repercussions, which so far appear to include the detention in China of two Canadians and a death sentence in the case of another who was convicted of drug smuggling, will only continue, he added.
“There is a boomerang effect — there are American officials, American business executives and, clearly, Canadians who become the collateral damage, the consequences from this policy.” [Source]
News of the impending extradition request came shortly after a worldwide group of 140 scholars and former ambassadors published an open letter expressing concern over chilling effects on the community, and calling for the immediate release of Spavor and Kovrig. Both are being questioned for multiple hours a day, and held without attorney access. In contrast, Meng has been permitted to spend her time on bail at her multi-million dollar Vancouver home with an 11 pm to 6 am curfew, monitored by a private security firm. The letter has been published in full by The Globe and Mail:
[…] Many of us know Michael Kovrig through his work as a diplomat in Beijing and as the senior expert for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, an organization whose mission is to “build a more peaceful world.” In both roles, Mr. Kovrig regularly and openly met with Chinese officials, researchers and scholars to better understand China’s positions on a range of important international issues. Michael Spavor has devoted his time to the task of building relationships between North Korea and China, Canada, the United States and elsewhere.
These meetings and exchanges are the foundation of serious research and diplomacy around the world, including for Chinese scholars and diplomats. However, Mr. Kovrig’s and Mr. Spavor’s detentions send a message that this kind of constructive work is unwelcome and even risky in China. We who share Mr. Kovrig’s and Mr. Spavor’s enthusiasm for building genuine, productive and lasting relationships must now be more cautious about travelling and working in China and engaging our Chinese counterparts. That will lead to less dialogue and greater distrust, and undermine efforts to manage disagreements and identify common ground. Both China and the rest of the world will be worse off as a result. [Source]
The letter comes as Beijing moved to soften its tone a week after its ambassador to Canada warned the Trudeau government it would face “repercussions” if it banned Huawei, the Chinese corporate giant that wants to play a key role in developing Canada’s 5G networks, the next generation of high-speed wireless networks.
Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters Monday that Ambassador Lu Shaye “did not mean that China intends to interfere in the decision-making of the Canadian government.”
[…] Nevertheless, the Chinese spokeswoman talked tough and accused Canada of “irresponsible” remarks and “microphone diplomacy” in its efforts to rally international allies to protest the men’s detention.
She disputed Canada’s claims that the leaders of Germany and Singapore have publicly supported Canada’s position, saying neither made public comments.
[…] “I wonder who these western scholars and officials are and how much do they know about the real situation regarding the cases of the two Canadian citizens,” she said, adding foreign citizens are welcome in China. “As long as they abide by Chinese laws and regulations, there is nothing to worry about.” [Source]
Ambassador Lu had previously written that Canada’s worldview was shaped by “Western egotism and white supremacy” and that it was practicing “double standards.”
On Twitter, The Globe and Mail’s Nathan VanderKlippe and George Washington University Law professor Donald Clarke further parsed Hua’s response:
In a nutshell, Chinese foreign ministry response to the open letter calling for the release of detained Canadians, delivered by Hua Chunying today: 1. Writing the letter was a “mistake” because it conflated normal academic engagement with the endangerment of national security
— Nathan VanderKlippe (@nvanderklippe) January 22, 2019
Meanwhile, Huawei chairman Liang Hua, who stated that the company has had no “direct communication with the authorities” over Meng’s extradition proceedings, warned at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week that continued pressure on Huawei would lead it to partner with more welcoming countries. Huawei has already been effectively banned from U.S. government networks since 2012, removed from U.K. core infrastructure, and under consideration for bans in several other countries, including Germany. Now, the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin’s director Thorsten Benner has urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to take a firm stance in support of Canada at Davos:
[…] Last week, Mr. Lu warned Canada not to put the issue on the agenda during meetings at the World Economic Forum, as Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, had planned. “This would really escalate tensions instead of easing them. Davos is for economics. We hope Canada thinks twice before making any actions,” he said. To drive the point home, Lu accused Canada of “backstabbing” and warned against “repercussions” if Ottawa were to exclude Huawei from building Canada’s 5G network.
[…] The German government has a special role to play here. For Beijing, Germany is the most important country in the Western alliance after the US. In view of the increasing tensions with America, China has recently invested a great deal of energy in pulling Germany on its side. To this end, Beijing has accommodated German decision-makers and companies.
[…] Canada is one of the co-founders, courted by Berlin, of the “Alliance of Multilateralists” pursued by Heiko Maas. According to the foreign minister, the alliance should “show solidarity when international law is trampled underfoot on each other’s doorsteps.” China’s hostage-taking of foreign citizens is a clear-cut case. It is embarrassing enough that the German government last year refused Canada full solidarity when Saudi Arabia threatened Ottawa with reprisals because of critical remarks about the human-rights situation. The government should learn from this mistake.
Far more is at stake than the fate of the two imprisoned Canadians. No longer hidden beneath the veneer of its “win-win” and “shared future for mankind” sloganeering, the Chinese party state is now openly seeking to normalize hostage-taking and other arbitrary acts of bullying as an acceptable means of international politics. All countries committed to freedom and the rule of law must send an unmistakable signal that they will stand together to prevent this. They need to raise the price for China’s behavior before it is too late. [Source]