The United States has informed the Canadian government that it plans to proceed with a formal request to extradite Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on allegations of banking fraud related to violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton says.
Mr. MacNaughton told The Globe and Mail on Monday that he has voiced Canadian anger and resentment to the Trump administration about the dispute that resulted from the arrest of Ms. Meng. Beijing then detained two Canadians and imposed of a death penalty against a third.
"We don’t like that it is our citizens who are being punished,” Mr. MacNaughton said in an interview. "[The Americans] are the ones seeking to have the full force of American law brought against [Ms. Meng] and yet we are the ones who are paying the price. Our citizens are.”
China detained Canadians Michael Kovrig, a diplomat on leave, and businessman Michael Spavor last month on accusations of “endangering national security.” China imposed a death sentence last Monday on Canadian Robert Schellenberg after he had originally been given a 15-year prison term for drug smuggling.
Mr. MacNaughton said the Americans appreciate that Ottawa has said it will honour the extradition treaty and have told him they will continue to press Chinese authorities to gain the release of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor. Both men have been subjected to lengthy and daily interrogations and kept in prison cells with the lights on 24 hours a day.
By comparison, Ms. Meng, the daughter of the Chinese telecom’s founder, is out on $10-million bail in Vancouver and is living in a $5-million home that she owns. Ms. Meng, who has legal counsel, has surrendered her passport and must wear a GPS monitor but is otherwise free to move around the city outside an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
Mr. MacNaughton did not say when the formal U.S. extradition request would be made but the deadline for filing is Jan. 30.
After receipt of the formal request, lawyers with Canada’s Department of Justice’s International Assistance Group must determine within 30 days whether an “authority to proceed” will be issued. This authorizes an extradition hearing to be held before a judge of the Superior Court where the court will consider whether the arrested person should be extradited.
Canada cannot refuse to issue this “authority to proceed” if the United States’ request complies with the requirements of the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty.
At the extradition hearing, the judge will determine whether the evidence provided by the U.S. describes conduct that “had it occurred in Canada” would justify committal for trial in Canada, according to a Department of Justice description of the process provided to media.
Canada’s recently appointed Minister of Justice David Lametti will make the ultimate decision on whether Ms. Meng will be extradited. There are several opportunities for Ms. Meng to appeal decisions and this could delay any final decision for many months or even years.
Mr. MacNaughton has met repeatedly with top officials from both the White House and the U.S. State Department about the Meng case. He said he has told the Americans of Canadian fears that President Donald Trump is using the Meng case as bargaining leverage in his trade dispute with China.
U.S. officials assured him this is not the case. But Mr. MacNaughton said he would like further assurances.
Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, told members of the all-party House of Commons foreign affairs committee on Friday about the conditions in which Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor were being kept.
On Monday, Liberal MPs and cabinet ministers, who were holding a one-day caucus meeting in Ottawa in preparation for next week’s return of Parliament, accused Beijing of engaging in cruel and inhuman treatment of the men.
"It seems cruel and it’s not humane in the way that we feel prisoners and people incarcerated in our country should be treated. [They] should be treated in a humane fashion,” Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said in an interview.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said “if anybody is being treated in that manner, it is inappropriate.”
Disrupting the sleep of a prisoner by refusing to shut off the lights is a technique to disorient them and deprive them of rest. Soldiers in the Canadian Armed Forces are forbidden from using sleep deprivation as a tactic of interrogation.
Alex Neve, secretary-general at Amnesty International Canada, said the manner in which Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor are being detained “points to clear violations of China’s obligations under the UN Convention against Torture."
"It certainly means Canada has a clear international hook to be pursuing here and given the information that has come to light about the nature of how they are being held, the concerns about lights being on 24 hours a day, which has often been considered a minimum of ill treatment,” Mr. Neve added.
The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him … information or a confession.” China is a signatory to the accord that took effect in 1987.
Former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, now head of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, also said China’s handling of the two Canadians is a violation of international law.
“The 24/7 lights in their cells would cause extreme sleep deprivation and would constitute torture as has been recognized by the UN Committee [against] Torture in other cases.” he said. "The restrictions on access and free communication with consular officials constitutes a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.”
Mr. McCallum also told the foreign affairs committee that China will only allow Canadian consular officials to visit the two men once a month and only for half an hour. The conversations are also monitored and the Chinese guards forbid embassy officials from speaking to the Canadians in French for fear they are passing on messages.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland declined to say whether she thought the treatment of the two men violates the UN Convention against Torture.
“As the Foreign Minister has said, we are extremely concerned with the detention of these two Canadians and the Canadian government has raised its concerns directly with the relevant Chinese authorities,” press secretary Adam Austen said in a statement to The Globe.
Separately the Chinese government on Monday distanced itself from remarks made by its ambassador to Canada, saying Beijing has no plans to retaliate against Ottawa if it blocks the installation of fifth-generation wireless technology made by Huawei.
It is not true that “China wants to interfere with relevant decisions made by the Canadian government,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. Her comments differed substantially from a threat issued last week by Lu Shaye, China’s chief representative in Ottawa, who warned of consequences if Canada bans Huawei from 5G networks.
In an apparent push back against pressure to greenlight Huawei’s role in 5G networks, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale pointed out Monday that Huawei isn’t the only company that can supply Canada with 5G mobile infrastructure and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains added that Sweden’s Ericsson could provide the equipment instead.
With a report from Nathan VanderKlippe in Beijing