By DAVID JOHNSON
IT ALL HAPPENED very quickly. On Friday (Sept. 24, 2021), Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor found themselves in the air at the same time, flying in opposite directions.
The details of this are complex and nuanced regarding American law, Canadian law, the extraction treaty between the two, and China’s predilection towards hostage diplomacy and a bunch of very highly paid lawyers, ambassadors and diplomats for all involved countries.
After months of negotiations, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice finalized a deal with Meng on Friday.
What she had to do was agree that the U.S. case against her — four charges of conspiracy, bank and wire fraud — was factual, literally admitting guilt without actually claiming guilt. In addition, she agreed that Huawei had falsely represented its business activities in Iran to the investment bank HSBC, in violation of American/ Iranian sanctions.
This was precipitated by new evidence regarding the HSBC involvement in all of this, and the Americans realized that part of their case against her was not clear cut and she would probably win.
The remaining charges were not dropped; it was akin to a plea deal. That deal removed the need for Canada to continue holding her as required by the Canada/U.S. extradition treaty, so those proceedings against her were dropped.
It took almost three years to get it done, and backroom comments have suggested that this could have been done over two years ago, but Trump government incompetence created an air that no one wanted to negotiate within, as he was trying to worm completely unrelated trade deals into the mix. As soon as Biden was elected, negotiations ramped up quickly to a speedy conclusion.
Meng never, in all of this, broke any Canadian laws, so Canada had no reason other than the American extradition to hold her … so she was free to leave, and that was the catch 22 behind all of this; We only held her because the extradition treaty required us to, slamming Canada in the middle of a U.S. / China diplomatic dispute.
Then to make it far worse, China responded by arresting and charging two Canadians. That one mistake has left China with serious long-term egg on their face, but we will come back to that.
On Friday, Meng ditched her electronic monitoring anklet as she left the Vancouver court, and a short time later her flight to China took off. I doubt we will see her here again soon.
At the same time, the two Michaels took off from China on a flight to Canada … even though both stood trial in China and were found guilty, one sentenced to 11 years, the other awaiting sentencing.
Releasing them with convictions is basically telling the world that either China has knowingly released actual criminals after they went through the Chinese court system … or the charges and trials were a sham in their entirety and the two Michaels never broke any Chinese law at all … and today China is clearly showing the world, that it was the latter.
It is plainly clear now, for the world to see, that the two Canadian men’s arrest was only ever a direct retaliation for Meng’s arrest in Canada, even if China has always persisted that their detainment and trials were not related, and its judicial system was independent of political sway.
Today, China is saying through its actions that the Meng link was the only reason for these charges against the Canadians, and China pursued it to the point of even being able and willing to run kangaroo courts in an attempt to apply pressure to Canada.
This plea deal would not have been accepted if the Chinese Communist Party would not have said yes to it, full stop.
China has shown the world clearly and openly that its very judicial system is a sham and entirely controlled by the CCP’s political needs. The rest of the world will always remember this as a turning point. We always knew that China’s legal system was a government toy, but now we actually have a case in point where this can be quoted as a fundamental, open-door fact.
We have two Canadians returning to Canada, even though they were convicted of crimes in China. This is a huge diplomatic loss of face for China.
China may rue the day this happened, as any time in the future their legal system is again used in this way, global leaders can look at them and say “Ya, no … remember Canada, the two Michaels? … We don’t believe in your judicial system.”
Thankfully, all along, Trudeau refused to strike a deal that would release Meng unilaterally, rejecting “hostage diplomacy” completely, instead putting the pressure on the Americans to end the need for extradition, the only reason Canada was involved.
This was a good call, as Canada continues around the world to be seen as only ever following Canadian law and standing up to bi-national agreements to the bitter end, and that Canada will not negotiate with terrorists or nations that are intent on terrorising our citizens.
Canada’s Justice Department statement: “Canada is a rule of law country. Meng Wanzhou was afforded a fair process before the courts in accordance with Canadian law. This speaks to the independence of Canada’s judicial system.”
The practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals to exercise leverage over foreign governments, or hostage diplomacy is completely unacceptable and the message is that Canada will not allow its people to be used as pawns, even if the situation drops Canada between the two economic superpowers. Our citizens are not bargaining chips.
Unfortunately, all this extended the time the Michaels were in jail, as it does mean time is needed for diplomatic solutions within the framework of Canadian law and its agreements, but looking into the future and the potential of a like situation popping up with another crackpot nation trying the same ploy, it was the only way.
An interesting movement now would be for the Canadian Government’s travel to China advisory website to be updated to include a warning that Canadians traveling to China are at risk directly by the Chinese legal system, with a ‘history of arbitrary and non judicial detainment and trial.’
They wont like that, but they earned it.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.