(Bloomberg) – In a sudden resolution to a diplomatic crisis between the United States, China and Canada, a senior Huawei Technologies Co. executive returned home as China freed two imprisoned Canadians.
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For nearly three years, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was under house arrest in Vancouver as she fought extradition to the United States for fraud. Across the Pacific, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – detained a few days after Meng’s arrest in December 2018 – languished in Chinese prisons, pawns caught in a geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China.
The seemingly intractable standoff was quickly resolved on Friday after Meng reached a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. officials to resolve the criminal charges against her. Within hours, the British Columbia Supreme Court released her, and Meng immediately left for the airport to board an Air China charter flight back to Shenzhen, home to the Chinese giant’s headquarters. technology.
Shortly after, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the two Michael’s, as they are known in Canada, were also on their way home.
“There will be time for reflection and analysis in the days and weeks to come,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “But the point is, I know the Canadians will be incredibly happy to know that right now, this Friday night, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are on a plane and coming home.”
China reiterated its position on the issue on Saturday, saying Meng’s arrest was a political persecution against Chinese citizens with the aim of suppressing Chinese high-tech companies. What the United States and Canada have done is typical arbitrary detention, state broadcaster CCTV said on Saturday, citing Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement his government welcomed China’s decision to release the two Canadians “after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention.”
The long-running affair has become a symbol of the escalating geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China, highlighting the risk faced by those caught in the middle. Days after his arrest, Chinese authorities jailed two Canadians, sparking a diplomatic standoff that cost billions of dollars in trade losses and plunged bilateral relations to their worst point in decades.
U.S. prosecutors in Brooklyn had indicted Meng of fraud, accusing him of lying to HSBC Holdings Plc about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran in an attempt to violate U.S. trade sanctions. Meng had denied any wrongdoing and accused the United States of going too far.
Appearing by video on Friday, Meng pleaded not guilty in a Brooklyn courtroom, but later admitted to misleading a financial institution about Huawei’s business operations in Iran. U.S. government lawyers have said they will postpone prosecution in the case and dismiss the charges entirely by December 1, 2022, if Meng complies with the terms of the deal, which include refraining from saying anything. this is which contradicts the facts stated by US prosecutors on the case.
Huawei said in a statement on Saturday that it was “looking forward to seeing Ms. Meng return home safely to reunite with her family.” The company will continue to defend itself against allegations made in US courts.
The topic of Meng’s return hit Chinese social media on Saturday, attracting more than 110 million views on the Twitter-like website Weibo.
The Communist Party’s People’s Daily said in an article on Weibo that it was because of China’s “relentless efforts”, while Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin said in an article he said. hoped that Meng’s release might help thaw China’s relationship with Canada and improve ties. with the USA
Since Meng’s arrest during a layover at the Vancouver airport, his case has emerged as part of a broader US government effort to contain Huawei, which Washington has called a threat to national security. The Chinese Communist Party, in turn, saw the pursuit of Meng – the eldest daughter of the powerful founder of Huawei – as a politically motivated attack on one of its main tech champions.
The release of the two Michael’s is a critical triumph for Trudeau, just days after a nationwide election in which he faced sharp criticism from rival conservatives over his handling of relations with Beijing.
China has repeatedly linked the cases of the two Michaels, as they are known in Canada, to that of Meng, a Foreign Ministry spokesman who said last year that stopping his extradition “could open up a space for resolving the situation of the two Canadians “.
Spavor, a Canadian tour operator, was sentenced to 11 years for espionage last month. There had not yet been a verdict for Kovrig – a Hong Kong-based analyst at the International Crisis Group and former Canadian diplomat – who was arrested on the same day as Spavor. The two men were detained for more than 1,000 days.
(Updates with CCTV report in 6th paragraph.)
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