VANCOUVER • Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer, who is fighting extradition to the US, gets her first shot at release today in a case that has triggered an unprecedented diplomatic tussle between the US, China and Canada.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia is set to release a decision on whether Meng Wanzhou’s case meets a key threshold of Canada’s extradition law. If the judge rules that it fails to meet that test, Meng could be released from house arrest in Vancouver. If not, extradition proceedings will continue.
Meng was arrested on a US handover request in late 2018 on a routine stopover at Vancouver airport.
The eldest daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei has become the highest-profile target of a broader US effort to contain China and its largest technology company, which the US sees as a national security threat.
China has accused Canada of abetting “a political persecution”.
In the weeks after Meng’s arrest, China jailed two Canadians – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig – halted billions of dollars in Canadian imports and put two other Canadians on death row.
US President Donald Trump muddied the legal waters by suggesting he might intervene in her case to boost a China trade deal.
China’s Foreign Ministry yesterday urged Meng’s release, saying the US and Canada had abused their bilateral deal on extradition.
“Canada should correct its mistake and immediately release Meng Wanzhou and ensure her safe return to China to avoid continuous damage of China-Canada relations,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
Meng, 48, faces tough odds: Of the 798 US extradition requests received since 2008, Canada has refused or discharged only eight cases, or 1 per cent.
Whichever way it goes, the ruling will further escalate the fight between US and China, already at loggerheads over everything from the coronavirus pandemic to the status of Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as trade and investment.
Central to Meng’s case are allegations that she committed fraud by lying to HSBC Holdings and tricking the bank into conducting Iran-related transactions in breach of US sanctions. Today’s ruling will focus on whether the alleged fraud would also be a crime in Canada. Her defence has argued that the US case is, in reality, a sanctions-violations complaint framed as fraud. Had Meng’s alleged conduct taken place in Canada, the transactions by HSBC would not violate any Canadian sanctions, they say.
The US bank and wire fraud charges carry a maximum term of 20 years in prison on conviction.
If the ruling goes against her, Meng’s next court hearings are scheduled for next month and could continue to at least the end of the year.