Meng Wanzhou: Canadian court frees Huawei CFO on bail

Technology company executive facing extradition to the US is given $7.5m bail by a judge in Vancouver

A Canadian court has granted bail to the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou while she awaits a hearing on extradition to the United States.

The release of the Chinese technology company’s chief financial officer caps three days of bail hearings and sets the stage for what could be a lengthy battle.

The decision by the court in Vancouver on Tuesday came as Donald Trump told Reuters that he would intervene in the case if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.

It also follows news that the former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig has been detained in China. Kovrig had previously served as political lead for prime minister Justin Trudeau’s 2016 visit to Hong Kong. Trudeau told reporters the government took news of the detention “very seriously”. Former diplomats and analysts had previously cautioned that China might take punitive measures in response to Meng’s arrest, which has prompted uproar in China.

“This arrest sends a sign to current diplomats of the seriousness with which China is taking this particular matter,” said Stephanie Carvin, a professor of international relations at Carleton University, cautioning that it was still too early to definitively say the two events were related.

Meng was detained by Canadian authorities on 1 December in Vancouver. The US alleges she misled banks about the relationship between Huawei and Skycom – the latter of which had done business with Iran.

Prior to her release Meng had spent more than a week in custody and cited her poor health – including previous cancer surgery and difficulty eating solid foods – as grounds for bail.

In granting her release, Justice William Ehrcke of the supreme court outlined 15 provisions including Meng submitting to constant surveillance and wearing a GPS tracking device, surrendering both of her passports, providing a bond of C$10m ($7.5m). She is also subject to a curfew between 11pm and 6am.

Meng is required to pay the full cost of surveillance and GPS monitoring. Government lawyers had pushed for house arrest but she will remain in her Vancouver home pending the extradition hearing, with significant travel restrictions.

The United States, which asked Canada to detain Meng, has not yet submitted a formal request for extradition. If no formal notice is given within 60 days she will be released. She is due back in court on 6 February.

Speaking to Reuters, Trump said of the case: “If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made … I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

Trump, who has made sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program a signature part of his foreign policy, was asked whether Meng could be released.

“Well, it’s possible that a lot of different things could happen. It’s also possible it will be a part of negotiations. But we’ll speak to the justice department,” he said.

Asked if he would like to see Meng extradited to the US, Trump said he wanted to first see what the Chinese requested. He added, however, that Huawei’s alleged practices were troubling. “This has been a big problem that we’ve had in so many different ways with so many companies from China and from other places,” he said.

On Tuesday evening Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, acknowledged the “geopolitical complexity radiating from all of this” and said she had assured her Chinese counterparts that all aspects of Meng’s case were “in accordance with the law”.

But the detention of Kovrig – which was confirmed on Tuesday night – has thrown into disarray the warming relationship between Canada and China and has the potential to further exacerbate tensions.

“China has been courting Canada for some time for free a trade agreements,” said Carvin. “If you’re trying to prove that you are worthy partner – that you’re going to respond to things using the rule of law – this was a very non-strategic move to make.”

His employer, the thinktank International Crisis Group, on Wednesday called for his release. It said it had received no information about him since his detention and was concerned for his health and safety. “We are making every effort to learn more and to secure consular access to Michael from the Chinese authorities,” it said.

China has detained Canadians in similar circumstances before. In 2014, when a Chinese national was arrested in Canada on charges of stealing military secrets, China arrested a Canadian couple who ran a cafe near the North Korea border.


Leyland Cecco in Toronto

The GuardianTramp

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