The economic cost to Canada of deteriorating relations with China has been severe, but that picture will worsen if the Trudeau government refuses to release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. The Trudeau government should release Meng Wanzhou and chart a new course for relations with China—before it’s too late.
By Ken Stone
Published on Canadian Dimension, Feb 22, 2021
March 1 will mark the resumption of hearings in Vancouver in the extradition trial of Meng Wanzhou. It will also mark an event by her defenders in Canada who are determined to block her deportation to the United States where she would stand trial again on fraud charges that could land her in jail for over 100 years.
By March 1, Meng will have spent two years and three months in detention, accused of no crime in Canada. Her company, Huawei Technologies, of which she is chief financial officer, is likewise not charged with any crime in Canada. In fact, Huawei has a good reputation in this country, where it has created some 1,300 high-paying tech jobs as well as a state-of-the-art research and development centre, and has voluntarily worked with the Canadian government to increase connectivity for the mostly Indigenous peoples of Canada’s north.
Meng’s arrest was a colossal blunder by the Trudeau government, executed at the request of the now almost universally discredited Trump administration, which blatantly admitted that she was being held hostage as a bargaining chip in the former president’s trade war with China. There was some speculation, when Meng’s extradition trial was adjourned for three months last December, that an out-of-court settlement might be reached before March 1. The Wall Street Journal caused a media frenzy when it floated a trial balloon story that the US Department of Justice had proposed a plea deal for Meng. International criminal and human rights lawyer Christopher Black deflated the balloon in an interview with The Taylor Report two months ago.
Others speculated that, with his new administration in Washington, Joe Biden might withdraw the request for Meng’s extradition in an attempt to reset relations with China. However, so far, no withdrawal request has been put forward and instead Biden has ramped up tensions with China over Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the South China Sea.
Still, others thought that Justin Trudeau might pursue an independent direction for Canada’s foreign policy and unilaterally end the extradition process against Meng. According to Canada’s Extradition Act, the Minister of Immigration can—according to the rule of law—terminate an extradition proceeding at any point with a stroke of his pen. The prime minister has come under pressure from old Liberal Party stalwarts, former cabinet ministers, and retired judges and diplomats, who publicly urged him to release Meng and reset relations with China, Canada’s second largest trading partner. They hoped that by releasing Meng, Trudeau might secure the freedom of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were arrested on espionage charges and detained in China in December 2018.
Two months ago, Meng’s lawyer applied for a loosening of her bail conditions to allow her to move around the Vancouver region unescorted during the day. Currently, she is monitored around the clock by private security guards and is tracked by an ankle monitoring device. For this surveillance, she pays more than $3,000 per day.
The economic cost to Canada of deteriorating relations with China, however, has meant losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars for Canadian farmers and fishers, as well as the termination of a Sino-Canadian project to make COVID-19 vaccines in Canada. But that picture will worsen if the Trudeau government gives into the warnings of the Five Eyes Intelligence Network, as expressed in a letter addressed to the prime minister in 2018 from US Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner (just six weeks before Meng’s arrest), urging Trudeau to exclude Huawei from the deployment of a 5G network in Canada. Such an exclusion, according to Dr. Atif Kubursi, Professor Emeritus of Economics at McMaster University, would be a clear violation of WTO rules. It would also further estrange Canada from positive diplomatic and economic relations with China, which now boasts the largest trading economy in the world.
Canadians are increasingly alarmed by what many academics and journalists have called a ‘new Cold War’ with China. On February 22, the House of Commons will vote on a Conservative motionofficially declaring China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority population a genocide, despite the fact that scholars consider the label of genocide debatable in the case of Chinese persecution of the Uighurs and the specific charge of genocide relies heavily on dubious evidence compiled by Adrian Zenz, a far-right Christian fundamentalist who has said he is “led by God” against China’s government.
What’s more, On February 9, Green Party leader Annamie Paul called for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to be relocated to Canada. Her proposal was endorsed by Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, as well as several MPs. For his part, on February 4, Canada’s immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, announced that Hong Kong residents will be able to apply for new open work permits as part of its program to create pathways towards Canadian citizenship. Mendicino noted, “Canada continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong, and is deeply concerned about the new National Security Law and the deteriorating human rights situation there.”
Cold wars between nuclear-armed military alliances can easily turn into hot wars. That’s why Canada should release Meng and chart a new course for relations with China—before it’s too late.
Please join the cross-Canada campaign to free Meng Wanzhou at a panel discussion on March 1, featuring author William Ging Wee Dere, professor Justin Podur, and economic commentator and activist John Ross. For more information, please click here.
Ken Stone is a longtime anti-war, anti-racist, environmental, and social justice advocate based in Hamilton. He is Treasurer of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War and a Steering Committee member of the cross-Canada campaign to free Meng Wanzhou.