I WAS in Kuala Lumpur recently at a planning conference, attended by more than 200 people comprising senior land administrators and town planning professionals. During coffee break, I met an old colleague and asked what he thought of the recent extradition case involving a 47-year old senior Huwaei executive now pending in a Canadian court. His reply fascinated me. “This is part of the on-going trade war between the United States and China. If this fails, the US will try something else.”
When I told him that I find it difficult to accept his theory, he replied with a cynical smile, “Never believe anything coming out of the White House. Nothing is what it seems”.
What we know of the Meng extradition case is as follows. Last December Canadian police officers had arrested Meng Wanzhou (Huawei CFO and daughter of Huawei founder) at the request of the United States. She was later freed on bail of CAD$10 million (RM30.67 million) pending trial, on condition that she wears an ankle monitor and stay in Canada.
In January, the US made public an indictment against Meng and Huawei, alleging the company’s illegal or criminal activities over the recent years in stealing trade secrets, obstructing a criminal investigation and evading American economic sanctions on Iran. They were indeed serious charges. The US sought to extradite Meng to face these charges in American courts, and under the terms of an extradition treaty between the US and Canada, the Canadian courts were bound to consider whether the Huawei CFO be extradited to the US. The arrest by the Canadian police was part of the usual procedure before an extradition hearing.
According to foreign reports, Meng’s arrest and detention by the Canadian police had created a rift in Chinese-Canadian relations. China later arrested and detained two Canadians on national security grounds and sentenced to death a Canadian who had been jailed for drug smuggling.
On March 1, 2019, Canada’s Department of Justice formally authorised an extradition hearing for Meng to proceed. The department said that its decision was made after a full review of “the evidence in the case”, where it is satisfied that there was “sufficient evidence to proceed”. The hearing, which was scheduled to begin on March 6 at British Columbia’s Supreme Court, “is not a trial, nor does it render a verdict of guilt or innocence”.
Legal experts say that the hearing will determine whether the fraud accusations against Meng by the United States constitute a crime in Canada. Before extradition can be granted, the conduct for which extradition is sought “must be considered criminal in both the US and Canada”.
Meng’s attorney, David Martin, called the entire episode as being “politically motivated”. Maintaining his client’s innocence, Martin said the US prosecution and extradition is an abuse of the processes of law.
Huawei had come under growing scrutiny by Western governments following allegations of espionage activities on behalf of the Beijing government. Australia, New Zealand and Britain had rejected some of the company’s services because of “security concerns”. A news portal had said Meng had “intensified US-China tensions” despite attempts by both sides to cool off their trade war.
Trump recently told Reuters that he would “consider intervening” in Meng’s case “if it would help close a trade deal with China”. Huawei sells products to more than 170 countries and is a key provider of infrastructure for the new 5G network which is expected to roll out in 2020.
Is this case against the Huawei CFO a bona fide criminal prosecution based on air-tight evidence of wrongdoing or is it a tool or weapon used by the US to defeat China in its on-going trade war with China?
Has Canada become a “willing proxy” for the US in this trade war?
It’s interesting how this power play would turn out. We just have to wait and see.
The writer formerly served the Attorney-General’s Chambers before he left for private practice, the corporate sector and academia