The extradition hearing for Meng Wanzhou begins in Vancouver on Monday, and with it comes a growing chorus of voices arguing that the Trudeau government should short-circuit the process and free the Chinese business executive.
The theory is that doing so is the best way to win the release of two Canadians who were taken hostage by the Communist regime in retaliation for Ms. Meng’s arrest. In plain English, a prisoner swap.
Officially, China says nothing of the sort is possible. Unofficially, these are its clear demands. Two innocent Canadians are being held in extremely difficult conditions, solely because Beijing needed bargaining chips.
Everything reasonably possible must be done to ensure that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are treated humanely. And Ottawa must garner more international support to press for their release.
But the Canadian government did the right thing when it respected an extradition request from an American court in late 2018. This is what countries that follow the rule of law do.
If there is one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that, by its conduct, Beijing has revealed its true face. The law in China is whatever the Communist Party wants it to be.
Canada stands for something different, and better. We don’t want a world where Group of 20 members settle disputes by kidnapping each other’s people and holding them for ransom.
It is true, as proponents of freeing Ms. Meng argue, that Canadian law gives the Minister of Justice the discretion to stop an extradition case.
But it’s hard to believe that provision exists to give in to extortion. Our justice system could conceivably release any suspected criminal at any time, if someone holding a gun to the head of an innocent person demanded it. That’s how things go in failed states, where the rule of law has given way to the law of the gun.
Ms. Meng’s extradition case, including appeals, could go on for years. She has deep pockets, good lawyers and all the protections of the Canadian legal system.
All of which puts Ottawa in a terrible dilemma. But the situation is not of Canada’s making, even if the gaslighters in the Communist Party of China would have people believe that it is.
Where Ottawa now needs to direct its attention is Washington. The U.S. extradition request put Canada in this position, and we need its help and its heft, to take on Beijing. Help hasn’t exactly been forthcoming.
That, too, is a source of frustration. Canada is effectively standing up for the U.S. justice system, even as the United States is led by an impeached President who views the rule of law with Beijing-style contempt.
Not only that, but Donald Trump also compromised Canada’s position when he suggested that he would intervene in Ms. Meng’s case if it suited his interests, lending credence to Beijing’s claim that Ms. Meng is a political prisoner.
Mr. Trump’s ramblings were neither helpful nor accurate. This case goes back as far as 2013, long before his presidency, and is based on allegations that Ms. Meng, the chief financial officer for Huawei, the telecom giant founded by her father, lied to banks about Huawei’s links to another company suspected of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.
There are questions about the legal appropriateness of criminally charging an individual for such alleged corporate acts. Nevertheless, the answers should be sought in a court, not through hostage-taking.
However, after placing this case in Canada’s lap, resulting in China hitting this country with costly economic sanctions plus the seizure of two citizens, the Trump administration went on to cut its own trade deal with China. It forgot all about the cost its Meng request imposed on Canada.
That has been the most disturbing part of this affair. Its impact will be long-lasting.
Washington had every reason to expect that Canada would honour an extradition request. But Ottawa had every reason to expect the U.S. to stand up against an attack on an ally, and on the American-led international order. Washington’s abdication has left Canada high and dry.
If allies do not hang together, they will hang separately. They will have no choice but to arrive at what arrangements they can with China. It’s what Beijing is counting on.