- Gordon Corera
- BBC security reporter
The final round of hearings on the extradition case of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, will begin in Canada on August 4. This long legal battle will enter a critical stage.
Meng Wanzhou is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of China’s telecom giant Huawei. She was arrested at Vancouver Airport in Canada in December 2018. The final round of hearings on the Meng case is scheduled to be held from August 4 to 20, and the judge will begin the trial whether to extradite her to the United States. Meng Wanzhou himself will appear in court.
However, in recent weeks, high-level diplomatic talks between the United States and China have also mentioned the Meng case. The hearing is expected to last as long as three weeks, which is the climax of the legal battle in the past two and a half years.
The United States accused Meng Wanzhou of concealing the business dealings between Hong Kong subsidiary Skycom and Iran in violation of US sanctions against Iran. The U.S. also claimed that the act was also suspected of defrauding HSBC, which exposed the latter to the risk of violating sanctions.
So far, lawyers have been arguing about what evidence can be used in this extradition hearing and used to challenge the extradition request of the United States.
Meng Wanzhou’s lawyers continue to question the extradition request for multiple reasons.
One is that the United States misled the Canadian courts on evidence. Huawei’s lawyers have been providing materials. They said that Meng Wanzhou’s business dealings with Starcom did not mislead HSBC. This includes Ms. Meng’s Powerpoint report document at the company meeting in 2013, as well as all the details of Huawei’s internal emails.
Her team of lawyers also sued HSBC in London and Hong Kong to obtain internal bank information to support their claims. However, Canadian judges have recently refused to use this evidence.
Meng Wanzhou’s lawyer also stated that this case was basically a political prosecution because the Huawei executives were a pawn in the US-China dispute. They also said that former President Donald Trump further politicized Ms. Meng’s case. Trump once seemed willing to allow Meng Wanzhou to be released in exchange for a better trade agreement with Beijing.
Meng Wanzhou’s lawyer stated that when Meng was questioned at Vancouver Airport without a lawyer, her rights were violated. They are expected to argue in court that Meng Wanzhou’s past conversations in Hong Kong are not behind the jurisdiction of the United States. Finally, they will argue that even if the allegations are true, they cannot justify the fraud charges against her.
The U.S., China and Canada’s tripartite wrestling continues
The verdict is expected to be announced later this year. If Meng Wanzhou loses the case, the extradition request will be submitted to the Canadian government for a decision. Then Ms. Meng’s lawyer can appeal. This means that the case may be delayed for another five years or more.
However, while the legal process is going on, it is understood that diplomatic contacts and secret channel discussions on the case are underway, involving US and Chinese officials and Huawei. This reflects the scope of interest involved in this case.
The arrest of an executive of a well-known Chinese company caused an uproar in China and became one of the many stumbling blocks in Sino-US relations.
In the past, the Trump administration took a hard line against Huawei and imposed sanctions on the company. But so far, Biden’s attitude towards the case has not changed significantly.
The arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Canada also led to a serious diplomatic crisis between China and Canada. Two Canadian citizens were immediately arrested in China on charges of endangering China’s national security. They allegedly became a bargaining chip in the Meng Wanzhou case.
In July of this year, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (Wendy Sherman) discussed this issue when he met with Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng in Tianjin, China. The Chinese side proposed to stop the extradition of Meng Wanzhou and at the same time lift sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese officials. American officials mentioned two Canadians detained in China.
Although both sides have made requests to each other, it is said that this meeting is an improvement over the first difficult meeting between the US and China in Alaska a few months ago.
Huawei’s senior officials have also been in contact with the US in an attempt to seek the release of Meng Wanzhou.
However, abandoning the extradition request may require Meng Wanzhou to admit that he has made a mistake and at the same time reach a tacit understanding with the fate of the two Canadians in custody. Both of these are not easy.
However, the so-called “deal” can also be a signal that both Washington and Beijing are looking for ways to improve their conflicts and try to cool the conflict.