The saga of the
is over, and with it one of the main stumbling blocks in relations between Washington and Ottawa, on the one hand, and Beijing, on the other.
At the same time that the Chinese tech giant's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, arrived in China after the United States dropped the charges against her, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have also been released and have returned to their country, in a move. Simultaneous reminiscent of the spy exchanges during the Cold War times.
Chronology of the 'Huawei case'
In both cases, the reception upon arrival has been like heroes. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has melted at the foot of the ladder in an emotional embrace with the "two Michaels", as they were popularly known in diplomatic circles in Beijing. China, for its part, has made welcoming Meng a patriotic spectacle. From the red dress like the flag with which the daughter of the founder of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, got off the plane while the state television broadcast it live, to the welcome message that was projected in the largest skyscraper in Shenzhen, the city where she landed and where Huawei is headquartered. On the airstrip, dozens of people waved Chinese flags, and a banner that read, in red and yellow, "Welcome back home, Mrs. Meng Wanzhou."Inside the terminal, a mass of people shouted "Up China!", Between banners with messages such as "victory of justice"
"I've finally come home!" Declared the executive.
“After a thousand days of suffering, I have finally returned to the arms of my homeland.
The wait in a foreign country has been full of pain.
The moment my feet stepped on Chinese soil, I was speechless. "
China has presented Meng's retention in Canada for three years as a politically motivated arrest.
“It is a political persecution against a Chinese citizen with the aim of oppressing the leading Chinese technology companies.
The fraud allegations against Ms. Meng are nothing more than a fabrication, ”said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in a statement.
The return of Meng, on the one hand, and "the two Michaels," on the other, puts an end to almost three years of behind-the-scenes negotiations between China, on the one hand, and the United States and Canada, on the other, in a case that it has deteriorated relations between the two camps to levels that had not been recorded in decades.
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The case exploded on December 1, 2018, when Meng, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was detained by Canadian authorities at the request of the United States, while making a stopover in the city of Vancouver on her way to Mexico.
The Justice Department in Washington accused her of violating US sanctions on Iran, and demanded that Ottawa be extradited.
Beijing was enraged by what it perceived as a politicized attack against one of its leading companies in the technology sector and a leader in the field of 5G.
Just two days later, in retaliation, the two Canadians were arrested on suspicion of espionage.
Kovrig, a former diplomat who at the time of his arrest was working for the NGO specialized in conflict resolution International Crisis Group, was imprisoned in Beijing.
Spavor, a businessman specializing in cultural exchanges with North Korea, was arrested at his home in Dandong, on the border between that country and China.
Spavor had been sentenced in August to 11 years in prison for spying and handing over state secrets to foreign forces.
Kovrig had been tried in March, but was still awaiting sentencing.
Canada and the United States have always described the arrests of the two Canadians as "arbitrary." Chinese diplomats in turn maintained until the last moment that the cases were not related to the arrest of Meng, held under house arrest in one of his mansions in Vancouver. On September 3, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing insisted that “the Meng Wanzhou incident and the cases of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are totally different in nature. Isolated cases of Canadian citizens have been sensationalized and China has been falsely accused of arbitrary detention ”.
The Gordian knot was undone when the US Department of Justice reached an agreement with Meng, whereby the executive was released in exchange for publicly acknowledging the commission of minor wrongdoing. The release of the CFO and the two Canadians represent an olive branch between Washington and Beijing. Perhaps it opens the door to a certain restart in relations between the two rivals, after a general deterioration of their ties during the four years of Donald Trump's mandate and that had not improved after the arrival in the White House of Joe Biden.
The agreement, and its rapid outcome, was announced precisely on the day that Biden was holding a summit at the White House with members of the Quad, the informal security association made up of the US, Japan, Australia and India. and that Beijing perceives as an alliance to limit its influence in the Indo-Pacific region. It also came a week after the announcement of a defense pact between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom that will include, among other things, the provision of nuclear submarines for Canberra. The agreement, known as Aukus, will strengthen US influence in the Asia-Pacific region and has received harsh criticism from China, which considers it a new hostile act.
The pact between the US prosecutor's office and Meng will be in force until December 2022, and until then the United States will be able to reactivate the judicial process, if it deems it necessary.
If by that date there has been no denunciation of the agreement, the case will be considered definitively closed.
A few hours after the charges were dropped, Canadian judges formally ended the extradition process of the Chinese executive.
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