Trudeau rejects letter calling for Meng’s release . . .
In a case that has made international headlines, Prime Minister Trudeau yesterday rejected a call by prominent Canadians to release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in an effort to secure the return of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians detained in China for more than 550 days. The two Michaels’ arrest is widely believed to be arbitrary and in retaliation for Meng’s detention in 2018 on an American extradition warrant. In a letter to the Prime Minister, former Canadian ministers, parliamentarians, and diplomats from across the political spectrum argued that the Minister of Justice has “legal authority” to act to end Meng’s extradition proceedings. In reply, Trudeau stated that releasing Meng, rather than allowing her case to continue through British Columbia’s courts, would endanger the lives of millions of Canadians abroad, turning them into potential hostages for geopolitical leverage.
The domino effect of Meng’s extradition case . . .
In late May, B.C. courts ruled that extradition procedures against Meng could continue since the U.S. allegations of fraud – by lying to banks about Huawei’s relationship with a company in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran – are also considered a crime in Canada. On June 19, Chinese prosecutors charged the ‘two Michaels’ with espionage, a move seen as putting pressure on Ottawa to drop the case against Meng. Beijing’s move also prompted Michael Kovrig’s wife to speak publicly for the first time, stating Ottawa could be doing more to free both Michaels. She obtained a legal opinion from an extradition expert; the signatories of the high-profile letter sent to Trudeau drew on the same legal opinion. Zhao Lijian, the spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also admitted that Meng’s release could aid in the return of the two Michaels.
A future filled with tough decisions . . .
As Meng’s extradition proceedings will extend well into 2021, the fate of the two Michaels and Canada’s relationship with China are headed into a very uncertain future. Even though the two Canadians have been charged, there is no clear timeline as to when they will face trial. Ottawa also faces mounting pressure to harden its stance on China, with over a dozen senators advocating that Ottawa use the Magnitsky Act to sanction Chinese officials for “tyrannical behaviour,” citing China’s ongoing issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. The cases of the two Michaels and Meng will continue to strain Ottawa-Beijing relations and will spur debate in Canadian society on how best to handle China.