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China releases two Canadians after Canada released Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou: All you need to know about the ‘prisoner swap’

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou reached China after staying in detention for more than 1,000 days in Canada, after two Canadian nationals detained by China for over 1,000 days were freed

On September 25, China welcomed Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who spent over 1,000 days in detention in Canada. She was living in her multi-million home in Vancouver under house arrest for the last three years. Notably, on the same day, two Canadians detained by China for over 1,000 days reached Canada, making it apparent that it was a ‘prisoner swap’.

Meng is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, founder of Huawei Technologies. She was released from detention after reaching an agreement with the prosecutors in the US on Friday that ended a bank fraud case she was charged with. Chinese officials had signalled that the case had to be dropped to end the diplomatic deadlock between the US and China.

Meng was quoted by Chinese Mouthpiece Global Times saying, “I’m finally back home. The waiting in a foreign country was full of suffering. I was speechless the moment my feet touched Chinese soil.” While Chinese state media welcomed Meng, there were no words uttered about Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians who were detained by China just a few days after the detention of Meng in Canada.

What happened on September 24?

On September 24, the Department of Justice said it had reached a deferred prosecution agreement with Meng. DOJ, thus, would not move ahead with prosecution charges against Meng till December 2022. If she manages to comply with the conditions laid down by the court, the case against her will be dropped.

Later that day, the Canadian prosecutors informed the court in Vancouver, and the efforts of her extradition to the US had been withdrawn, which led to her release from the detention.

Huawei would continue to defend itself in the US

In a statement, Huawei said that the company had looked forward to seeing Meng coming back home safely and rejoin the family. Notably, the company said that it would continue to defend its position in front of the US against the charges laid down by the US administration against the tech company.

Reaction on Meng’s release from political circuit

Meng release did not go down well with all the sections in the US senate. Some Republican senators have condemned her release and urged the White House to make a statement in front of the US Congress over the issue. Marco Rubio was quoted by Reuters saying, “The release of Ms. Meng raises serious questions about President Biden’s ability and willingness to confront the threat posed by Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party.”

Senator Jim Risch said in a statement, “It [the deal was a victory for one of the world’s most brutal and cruel regimes,” and would embolden the Communist Party “to use other foreign citizens as bargaining chips because it now knows hostage-taking is a successful way to get what it wants.”

On the other hand, Chinese commentators welcomed the decision. Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, appreciated the decision and claimed it would help in clearing the mess left behind former President Trump. He said, “By agreeing to let Meng return to China, the Biden administration is signalling that it hopes to clear the mess left behind by the former Trump administration.”

Canada’s reaction on return of detained Canadians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the two Canadians, Kovrig and Spavor after they landed in Calgary. In a Twitter post, he said, “Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been.”

Who is Meng Wanzhou?

46-year-old Meng Wanzhou is the elder daughter of Ren Zhengfei, founder of Huawei, the telecom equipment manufacturer. She is often called Cathy or Sabrina Meng. Zhengfei had served in the Chinese Army for nine years until 1983. He is also a member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Huawei has been accused of using the equipment sold for stealing information and espionage. The company has, however, denied the accusations.

The accusations against Meng were raised because of the relationship between a company named Skycom and Huawei. Reportedly, Skycom runs a business in Iran, and it was a “hidden” subsidiary of Huawei to sell equipment to Iran. As the US has imposed sanctions on Iran, Huawei was accused of going against the regulations.

Meng reportedly had served on Skycom’s board of directors. In 2013, she denied all the allegations made against her during a presentation in New York in front of the bankers. The US prosecutors alleged that she made misrepresentations and claimed that her company had sold all the shares in Skycom, and Meng had quitted her position from the board. The US authorities said, “That statement was highly misleading because Huawei sold its shares in Skycom to a company also controlled by Huawei.”

Meng’s arrest in Vancouver

When Meng was arrested, she was on a business trip passing via Vancouver International Airport on her way to a trip to Mexico City, Costa Rica, Argentina and France. According to the US authorities, she had been avoiding travelling via the US since April 2017 after she was made aware of the criminal investigation against her. In August 2018, a judge in the Eastern District of New York issued a warrant against her that led to her arrest. Her family owns properties in Vancouver. She was denied bail multiple times as the prosecution claimed she was a flight risk.

Reacting to her arrest, Huawei said, “The company denies that it or its subsidiary or affiliate have committed any of the asserted violations of U.S. law set forth in each of the indictments, is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng, and believes the U.S. courts will ultimately reach the same conclusion.”

A few days after her arrest, China detained two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, over the suspicion of spuing. While the experts accused China of detaining Canadian citizens as a political bargaining chip under ‘hostage diplomacy’, China denied the accusations and kept saying that they were detained for the alleged involvement in spying. Later, Spavor was charged with espionage and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Canada condemned the sentence and claimed the trial did not meet the required standards laid down by international law.

It is noteworthy that her release is not going to end the loggerhead between the US and China immediately as Huawei is still a blacklisted company, among several others.

 

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Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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