A Chinese state-run newspaper has launched a campaign to free Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is fighting extradition from Canada to the United States, as she nears 1,000 days in detention.
The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid known for its provocative commentary, published an open letter to Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, late Wednesday accusing Ottawa of “blatant political persecution.”
Ms. Meng is accused of lying to HSBC during a presentation in Hong Kong in 2013, exposing the bank to the risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Aug. 26 will mark 1,000 days since she was detained in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018. After her arrest, two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were detained in China and later charged with espionage, an accusation Ottawa views as trumped up – an attempt to pressure Canada into releasing Ms. Meng.
Last week, Mr. Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison, while Mr. Kovrig is still awaiting a verdict in his case. Unlike Ms. Meng, who has spent most of her detention in a mansion in a Vancouver suburb, the two Canadians have spent long periods in solitary confinement, held in cells where the lights are on 24 hours a day.
Their families and supporters have been campaigning hard for their release and are planning a number of events to draw attention to their plight next month. The Globe and Mail has also launched a campaign urging readers to write to China’s embassy in Ottawa and call for their release, which may have prompted the Chinese newspaper’s action this week.
In her extradition hearings in a B.C. court, Ms. Meng’s lawyers have sought to poke holes in the U.S. case, arguing that prosecutors twisted her representations, ignored exculpatory evidence and overstated any risk to HSBC.
Such arguments may not prevent her extradition, however, as the case need only clear the far lower bar of showing that, if the crime had been committed in Canada, there would be enough evidence to send it to trial.
The open letter to Mr. Barton echoed much of the defence team’s arguments, saying “there is enough evidence to show that the US distorted the facts to lay out a false case against Meng.”
“It was ironic and rare when the so-called victim of this fraud case – HSBC – agreed to provide relevant materials to the court to help prove Meng’s innocence,” the paper said, adding that “as an accomplice in the case, the Canadian government should be held liable for aiding the US persecute a Chinese citizen for political purposes.”
Neither the open letter nor a related article published by the Global Times mentioned the two Canadians, though the article did note that “some Canadian lawmakers and officials have been constantly calling for Meng’s release as they believe that her case was highly politicized that led to a deteriorating Canada-China relationship.”
The Global Times said Thursday that more than 7.5 million people had signed its petition calling for Ms. Meng’s release in less than 24 hours.
Speaking at a news conference, Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that represented the “voice from China, and I hope Canada can listen to it.”
Canada’s embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alexandra Li contributed reporting from Beijing
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