The extradition case of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou continues as the B.C. Supreme Court resumed hearing her lawyer’s arguments again.
First of all, how did all of this begin? In December of 2018, Wanzhou was in the middle of transferring flights at a Vancouver airport when she was apprehended by Canadian officials. She was and still is facing possible extradition to the United States. The popular Chinese tech company she works for, Huawei, had been the target of speculation amongst U.S. intelligence and other countries concerning national security risks. Some even accused Huawei products of being capable of espionage on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
Wanzhou’s extradition hearing is being held in Canada. In January 2020, she was formally introduced with charges of bank fraud and of violating U.S. sanctions in Iran. Although she maintains her innocence, in May the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the hearing should proceed. Using a term called “double criminality,” Chief Justice Heather Holmes said that the acts Wanzhou is charged with would be considered as ‘crimes’ in both the U.S. and Canada. This means that Canadian prosecutors have the ability to adjudicate the matter on behalf of the U.S.
The arrest and charges laid against Wanzhou have led to considerable backlash from China. Not only did the Chinese government once issue suspensions on Canadian goods such as canola and oil, but many have suggested that the arrest and imprisonment of two Canadian men was a form of retribution. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were two Canadian workers living in China who were arrested and imprisoned for alleged espionage not too long after Wanzhou’s own arrest in 2018. Several people including Democratic senator Christopher Coons have compared the men’s arrest to that of a “bargaining chip” used by China to give itself leverage in Wanzhou’s ongoing trial. In a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February 2021, Biden spoke about how securing the Michaels’ safe return was a priority. In his words, “Human beings are not bartering chips…We’re going to work together until we get their safe return. Canada and the United States will stand together against abuse of universal rights and democratic freedom.”
Although they have been imprisoned now for over two years, reports have noted that the two Michaels remain resilient. Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, was recently able to secure a virtual visit with her husband, and noted that “”he remains healthy [and] he is doing everything possible to maintain his mental and physical health and well-being.” That isn’t to say that detention has not taken its own toll either. The two men now have had their first trial dates set on March 19 (for Spavor) and March 22 (for Kovrig). As CTV News notes, this would make it more than 800 days since the men were first detained in China.
As for Wanzhou today, her own lawyers are still fighting for her exoneration. They are currently arguing that her rights had been violated when she was detained all the way back in 2018 by RCMP officers. Notably, she had been held for three hours without being informed of both her arrest and her right to counsel. One of Wanzhou’s lawyers, Tony Paisana, is framing these allegations under the pretense that Canadian officials had complied with FBI requests, many of which he argues were misrepresentations. Conversely, the Attorney General of Canada argues that Paisana’s submissions are groundless. Her claims have since been dismissed as they were “supported only by speculation and innuendo.” The hearing is finally expected to end around May this year.