the saga of huawei case it’s over, and with it one of the main stumbling blocks in relations between Washington and Ottawa, on the one hand, and Beijing, on the other. Just as the Chinese tech giant’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, arrived in China after the US dropped charges against her, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were also released and returned to their homes. countries, in a simultaneous movement reminiscent of the exchanges of spies during the Cold War era.
In both cases, the welcome on arrival was like heroes. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau merged at the foot of the steps in an emotional embrace with the “two Michaels”, as they were popularly known in diplomatic circles in Beijing. China, for its part, made welcoming Meng a patriotic spectacle. From the red dress like the flag that Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei’s daughter got off the plane with as state TV broadcast it live, to the welcome message that was projected onto the tallest skyscraper sky of Shenzhen, the city where it landed and where Huawei is headquartered. On the runway, dozens of people waved Chinese flags and a banner that read, in red and yellow, “Welcome home, Ms. Meng Wanzhou.” Inside the terminal, a mass of people shouted “Up China!”, between banners with messages such as “victory for justice”.
“I’m finally home!” the executive said. “After a thousand days of suffering, I have finally returned to the arms of my homeland. Waiting in a foreign land has been full of pain. The moment my feet set foot on Chinese soil, I was speechless.
China presented Meng’s detention in Canada for three years as a politically motivated arrest. “This is a political persecution against a Chinese citizen with the aim of oppressing China’s leading technology companies. The fraud charges against Ms. Meng are nothing more than fabrication,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
The return of Meng, on the one hand, and “of the two Michaels”, on the other hand, ends nearly three years of behind-the-scenes negotiations between China, on the one hand, and the United States and Canada. , on the other hand. , in a case where it has soured relations between the two sides to levels not seen in decades.
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The case broke on December 1, 2018, when Meng, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was detained by Canadian authorities at the request of the United States, while she was stopping in the city of Vancouver en route to Mexico. The Washington Justice Department accused her of violating US sanctions against Iran and demanded her extradition from Ottawa.
Beijing has been angry over what it perceived as a politicized attack on one of its top tech companies and a leader in 5G. Barely two days later, in retaliation, the two Canadians were arrested on suspicion of espionage. Kovrig, a former diplomat who, at the time of his arrest, worked for the NGO specialized in conflict resolution International Crisis Group, was imprisoned in Beijing. Spavor, a businessman specializing in cultural exchanges with North Korea, was arrested at his home in Dandong, on the border between North Korea and China.
Spavor was sentenced in August to 11 years in prison for spying and delivering state secrets to foreign forces. Kovrig was tried in March, but was still awaiting sentencing.
Canada and the United States have always described the arrests of the two Canadians as “arbitrary”. Chinese diplomats, in turn, maintained until the last moment that the cases had nothing to do with the arrest of Meng, who was being held under house arrest at one of her mansions in Vancouver. On September 3, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing insisted that “the Meng Wanzhou incident and the cases of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are completely different in nature. Isolated cases of Canadian citizens have been sensationalized and China has been falsely accused of arbitrary detention.
The Gordian knot was undone when the US Department of Justice reached an agreement with Meng, under which the executive was released in exchange for public acknowledgment of the commission of minor wrongdoings. The release of the chief financial officer and the two Canadians represents an olive branch between Washington and Beijing. It opens the door, perhaps, to a certain resumption of relations between the two rivals, after a general deterioration in their ties during the four years of Donald Trump’s mandate and which had not improved after the arrival at the Joe Biden’s White House.
The deal, and its quick outcome, was announced precisely on the day Biden held a summit at the White House with members of the Quad, the informal security association made up of the United States, Japan, Australia and India, and which Beijing sees as an alliance to limit its influence in the Indo-Pacific region. It also came a week after the announcement of a defense pact between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom which will include, among other things, the supply of nuclear submarines to Canberra. The deal, known as Aukus, will boost US influence in the Asia-Pacific region and has received strong criticism from China, which sees it as yet another hostile act.
The pact between the US prosecution and Meng will be in effect until December 2022, and until then the United States can reactivate, if it deems it necessary, the judicial process. If on this date there has not been termination of the agreement, the file will be considered as definitively closed. Hours after the charges were dropped, Canadian judges formally ended the Chinese executive’s extradition process.