Two federal MPs have taken up the cause of releasing Chinese telecommunications company chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, currently facing extradition from Vancouver to the United States.
Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton said the executive has been unjustly held under house arrest for the past two years by Ottawa at the request of the Trump administration. In a petition to Parliament, Ashton called the situation politically motivated.
Nanaimo–Ladysmith Green Party MP Paul Manly, however, is avoiding the Meng legal issues, expressing concern over the detentions of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in the wake of Meng’s arrest.
Known as the Two Michaels, they remain in Chinese custody. Attempts by Glacier Media to obtain consular documents from Ottawa about the men have been fruitless, the request apparently stuck at the consular level in Beijing.
Manly was one of several speakers in a Nov. 24 online panel discussion. There, activists called for Meng’s release, saying the situation is imperilling Canada-China relations and affecting trade, jobs and the economy.
Meng was arrested on a provisional U.S. extradition request Dec. 1, 2018, on arrival in Vancouver from Hong Kong for a connection to Mexico.
Meng and Huawei are accused of money laundering, violating U.S. sanctions in Iran and North Korea and stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies like T-Mobile USA.
The detention came as a result of a request from the U.S. under a bilateral extradition treaty. Hearings currently underway in Vancouver are to determine if extradition is warranted, not to determine guilt or innocence.
But, said Canadian Foreign Policy Institute director Bianca Mugyenyi, Meng had travelled through several countries prior to arriving in Canada without being detained. Criminal defense lawyer John Philpott said those countries are the UK, Ireland, France, Poland and Belgium.
U.S. Department of State documents show the U.S. has bilateral extradition treaties with those countries.
Beijing condemned the arrest, calling the detention ‘extremely vicious.’ Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in China days later under Chinese national security laws in a move observers say may be retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
Petition to Parliament
Ashton’s petition calls on Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to end the extradition proceedings.
However, the petition is addressed to the wrong government department.
“Under the Extradition Act, the power to withdraw an Authority to Proceed rests with the Minister of Justice, although in practice, that power is delegated to departmental officials,” Department of Justice Canada spokesman Ian McLeod said.
As of the morning of Nov. 26, the petition had 666 signatures.
The petition further calls on Ottawa to “protect Canadian jobs by permitting Huawei Canada to participate in the Canadian deployment of a 5G internet network.”
Canada is the only member of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence community – with the UK, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand – not to have banned Huawei from 5G telecommunications networks. Those bans stem from fear the company will comply with Chinese law and turn over information gleaned from the foreign digital networks.
Huawei already has a foot in the door of Canadian scientific research as well as international nuclear physics research, Glacier Media investigations have found.
Also, Canadian taxpayers have funded university research with technical reports, samples, models and prototypes created given to Huawei. Mugyenyi suggested in the online session that the Five Eyes countries are "settler-colonial" nations “stoking conflict with China."
The House of Commons recently passed a Conservative motion calling on the government to decide by Dec. 18 whether to allow Huawei to be involved in development of Canada's next generation 5G wireless network.
That, however, may not be needed as Canada’s largest telecommunications companies – Telus, Rogers and Shaw – have already said their infrastructure will not use Huawei equipment.
The motion passed with the support of all opposition parties over government-side objections. It further called on the government to unveil within 30 days a robust plan to deal with growing intimidation by China of Canadians within Canada's borders.
Chinese Communist propaganda
Manly’s involvement online protest drew condemnation in Parliament Nov. 23 from Conservative MP Raquel Dancho, who said the event “amplifies Chinese communist propaganda and interferes with Canada's independent judiciary.”
Dancho said the MPs’ time would be better spent calling for Spavor and Kovrig’s release.
However, the event drew more than 240 people to their computer screens.
Philpott said Canada's arrest of Wanzhou was legally unjust and warned, “The U.S. and Canada should watch out. We do not want this to turn to war. We want this to turn to multilateral relationships.”
He said Meng would have had no right to counsel when she was detained and had her electronic devices taken. He asserted those devices were passed by the RCMP to the FBI.
“They would have a lot of Huawei material in her computer,” Philpott said. “Extortion by trial is grounds for an abuse of process application.”
Canada Border Services Supt. Sanjit Dhillon has denied in B.C. Supreme Court extradition hearings that information was being gathered for the FBI.
McLeod said extradition hearing witness testimony related to abuse of process allegations is ongoing this week. He said abuse of process arguments would be heard at the hearing on all branches of abuse, currently scheduled for Feb. 16 to March 5, 2021, also in B.C. Supreme Court.
Speaker K.J. Noh, who describes himself as a journalist, has repeatedly called the case a bungled kidnapping.
“What is on trial, of course, is not Meng, or Huawei, but the judicial system of Canada and the conscience, good sense and ethics of its ruling class: whether it will uphold or undermine international notions of justice,” he wrote in the Asia Times Oct. 30.
“If the Canadian judiciary and its ruling classes fail this test, Canada risks being driven, metaphorically, into the sea by a determined Chinese leadership.”
He made similar comments in the online event. “She’s not guilty of anything,” he said. “She’s been kidnapped as a pawn. Trump says she’s been kidnapped as a pawn.
“Canada risks becoming an international pariah,” he added. “The U.S. concocted a case.”
He further alleged Canada had committed genocide in the residential school cases and that the country harbours war criminals.
He then said the U.S. is in an economic war with China.
“Did Canadian citizens consent to this war?” he asked. “When and where was this debated?”
The media sponsor for the online event was The Canada Files, a news and opinion website with an apparent pro-Beijing bent.
Another host was worldbeyondwar.org, which claims, “This judicial action against Meng is unjust, politically motivated by the USA and contrary to the national interests of Canada. In fact, Meng’s arrest was cynically used by the Trump Administration to drag Canada into a trade war and a new cold war with China.”
Canada’s extradition process has three phases once a request is received from another state:
• authority to proceed: the decision to commence the proceedings by issuing an authority to proceed; a decision is made by Department of Justice officials;
• judicial phase: the extradition hearing, which takes place before a judge of the superior court; and
• ministerial phase: the decision on surrender, which under the federal Extradition Act must be made by the minister of justice. This decision cannot be delegated to officials.