VANCOUVER – The first phase of an extradition hearing for a senior Chinese technology giant Huawei began in a courtroom in Vancouver on Monday, a case that has angered Beijing, caused diplomatic riots between China and Canada and complicated trade negotiations between China and China. and the United States.
Canada’s arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou, daughter of Huawei’s legendary founder, in late 2018 at America’s request made Beijing so furious that it detained two Canadians in apparent retaliation.
Huawei represents China’s progress in becoming a technological power and has been the subject of US security concerns for years. Beijing sees Meng’s case as an attempt to limit China’s progress.
“Our government has been ready. We are a state governed by the rule of law and we are fulfilling our obligations under the extradition treaties, said Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland at a government retreat in Manitoba. “That’s what we need to do and what we want to do.”
China’s foreign ministry on Monday complained that the United States and Canada were violating Meng’s rights and called for her release.
“This is completely a serious political incident,” said a spokesman for the ministry, Geng Shuang. He called on Canada to “correct mistakes with concrete actions, release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and let her return safely as soon as possible.”
Washington accuses Huawei of using a shell company in Hong Kong to sell equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions. It says Meng, 47, committed fraud by misleading HSBC Bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.
Meng, who is bail-free and lives in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns, sat next to her lawyers wearing a black dress with white dots. She previously waved to reporters when she arrived in court.
Meng denies the allegations. Her defense team says comments from President Donald Trump suggest the case against her is politically motivated.
“We trust Canada’s legal system, which will prove Ms. Meng’s innocence,” Huawei said in a statement as the case began.
Meng was detained in December 2018 in Vancouver when she switched planes – the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for trade talks.
Prosecutors have stressed that Meng’s case is separate from the broader trade dispute between China and the United States, but Trump ignored that message weeks after her arrest when he said he would consider intervening in the case if it would help create a trade agreement with Beijing.
China and the United States reached a “Phase 1” trade agreement last week, but most analysts say any meaningful solution to the main US claim – that Beijing uses predatory tactics in its quest to oust US technological supremacy – could take years. controversial negotiations. Trump had raised the possibility of using Huawei’s fate as a bargaining chip in trade talks, but the deal announced Wednesday did not mention the company.
Huawei is the largest global provider of networking equipment for mobile phone and Internet companies. Washington is pressuring other countries to restrict the use of its technology and warns that they may open up to surveillance and theft.
James Lewis at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the United States wanted to send a message with Meng’s arrest. There is good evidence that Huawei has deliberately violated sanctions, he said.
“The message that you are no longer invulnerable has been sent to Chinese leaders,” Lewis said. “No one has held China accountable. They steal technology, they violate their WTO obligations, and the old line is, “Oh, they’re an evolving economy, who cares.” When you are the second largest economy in the world, you can do no more. ”
The initial phase of Meng’s extradition hearing will focus on whether Meng’s alleged crimes are crimes in both the United States and Canada. Her lawyers on Friday filed a motion that Meng’s case is in fact about US sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. Canada does not have similar sanctions against Iran.
“This extradition has any appearance by the United States seeking to enlist Canada to enforce the very sanctions we have rejected,” Meng’s lawyer Richard Peck told the court.
The second phase, scheduled for June, will consider defense allegations that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated her rights while gathering evidence before she was actually arrested.
The extradition case can take years to decide if an anchor arrives. Nearly 90 percent of those arrested in Canada following extradition requests from the United States were handed over to U.S. authorities between 2008 and 2018.
In apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. The two men have been denied access to lawyers and family and are sitting in jail cells where the lights are kept on 24 hours a day.
China has also imposed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including rapeseed oil seeds and meat. In January last year, China also handed down a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden renewed trial.
“It’s mafia-like pressure,” Lewis said.
Gillies reported from Toronto
Jim Morris and Rob Gillies, Associated Press