The extradition hearing for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou gets under way here in earnest Monday, the outcome of which could have enormous, and potentially crippling, consequences for this country.
While the intricacies of this case may be lost on many Canadians, the fallout from it has not been.
Ms. Meng was arrested in this city just over a year ago at the request of American authorities seeking our assistance in bringing the high-profile businesswoman to the U.S. to face fraud charges, among others. The Chinese government, in apparent retaliation, responded by throwing two Canadian nationals, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, in jail under the preposterous premise they were spies.
Then China re-opened the case of another Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who had earlier been tried and convicted of drug possession; on the second go-round, he was sentenced to death. Four months later, China-born Canadian Fan Wei was also sentenced to death. And China’s curtailment of canola and meat imports from Canada over alleged pest concerns has devastated the country’s farmers.
Ms. Meng has spent her time in one of two multimillion-dollar homes she owns in Vancouver, free to go pretty much where she wants, her only meaningful indignity being the clunky black tracking device strapped to one of her ankles. Meantime, Messieurs Kovrig and Spavor spend their time in a spartan prison where cell lights are reportedly on 24 hours a day and consular visits are restricted to once a week.
The U.S., at whose behest we made the arrest, has borne little ramification at all. In fact, President Donald Trump announced phase one of a major new trade deal with China on Wednesday, one that unquestionably represents a huge win for him. He couldn’t care less about two people he’s never heard of who are clearly paying a heavy price in a Chinese prison because of actions this country took to assist his. And China, in turn, appears to care little about the central role the U.S. has in all this.
The reality is that Canada is being bullied by someone afraid to stand up to the biggest kid in the schoolyard. And there’s nothing we can do about it – or at least nothing we will do about it.
Justice Minister David Lametti could intervene tomorrow and the entire extradition matter could be instantly dismissed. But that’s not going to happen. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others have repeatedly made the point that we are a country that abides by the rule of law, a country that can be counted on to assist allies in matters like this.
So this hearing will play itself out.
The odds of Ms. Meng’s high-priced lawyers securing her release are long. Almost 90 per cent of people arrested in this country at the behest of the U.S. were surrendered for extradition between 2008 and 2018, according to federal Department of Justice statistics. After this initial phase, there will be another hearing in June, in which Ms. Meng’s side will argue that her rights were violated when she was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 1, 2018.
She likely has a better chance of being released on those arguments.
The fate of Ms. Meng is just one of Canada’s major problems when it comes to relations with China. This country still has to make a decision on whether to allow Huawei to be part of our 5G network.
The U.S. and Australia have already said no, and there is little doubt which way the Americans would prefer to see its northern neighbour go. Others aren’t so sure that Huawei poses the security threat that the Americans and others insist they do. Britain, for instance, recently released a report that suggested cutting Huawei out of its 5G network would make the country less safe.
So who knows.
But let’s assume for a moment that Ms. Meng does, indeed, get extradited to face extremely serious charges in the U.S., and let’s also assume that Canada follows the lead of the U.S. and bans Huawei from being part of this country’s 5G network.
Do we ever see Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor again?
I don’t think anyone honestly knows. And that is a huge scandal. Two Canadians are being held hostage by the Chinese government in obvious retaliation for detaining Ms. Meng. No other reason.
And we, as a country, have to ask ourselves: Are we simply going to stand idly by while this happens? Or will we do something about it? I guess we’ll soon see.
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