Major progress for China’s diplomacy as US heeds call from Chinese request list to release Meng Wanzhou
When many Chinese woke up Saturday morning surprisingly learning that the return of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou to China became a reality, some said it was the best news in quite a while.
The high-profile case of Meng, which has become a political dilemma significantly affecting the global geopolitical landscape, has been settled through both legal channels and political wrestling, experts said, noting that China, the US and Canada have seen the best scenario with much compromise made by the Biden administration in resolving the matter. It also helped pave the way for the positive interaction between the world’s largest economies in the near future amid strained China-US relations.
It was also one mistake of the US administration that has been corrected in line with the request of China, as China put forward two lists to the US during the bilateral talks in Tianjin in July, including the List of US Wrongdoings that Must Stop which urged the US to release Meng, showing that Beijing’s US policies began taking effect and remaining mistakes of the US have to be corrected.
After being separated for more than 1,000 days, she finally reunited with her family and such an emotional moment also aroused reactions from ordinary Chinese people who firmly believe that the motherland will always be “on their back” and save them from crisis.
“The color red, symbolizing China, lightens the brightness in my heart,” Meng said in a post shared on her WeChat moment on her fight back home, noting that she deeply appreciates the motherland and the leadership of the Communist Party of China, as without them, she would not have been freed.
An official report by the Xinhua News Agency said thanks to sustained efforts by the Chinese government, Meng left Canada on a chartered plane arranged by the Chinese government on Friday local time. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian also welcomed her return in a post on his personal Weibo account.
“Meng’s return once again shows China’s steadfast position in defending the rights and interests of Chinese citizens in its diplomacy with the US and overall foreign diplomacy,” Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Saturday.
Such firm position is also being taken as the backbone for Chinese citizens and companies overseas, inspiring numerous Huawei staff amid the US-led severe crackdown on its 5G technologies and sanctions over the past three years. On her return, dozens of Huawei employees shared the moment on their personal accounts, saying that with the support of the government, they would never yield to any unilateral foreign sanctions or bullying.
Many ordinary Chinese cheered Meng’s return, posting welcome notes on social media. Chinese netizens were also thrilled at the news. Topics related to Meng’s return topped the search list of Sina Weibo for almost the whole day, with relevant posts being read more than 100 million times.
The Global Times reporter saw crowds gathering at Shenzhen Baoan Airport with Welcome Home banners, and they cheered on Meng’s return. Some were family members and relatives of Huawei staff, and they hailed the senior executive as a role model in facing US hegemony and a national hero, while more than 30 million netizens watched her arrival on livestream.
The Ping’an International Financial Center, a landmark skyscraper in Shenzhen, was lit up on Saturday evening to welcome Meng’s return.
In a video seen by the Global Times, a GPS tracker ankle bracelet that Meng had worn for over two years was removed on Friday, leaving a bruise on her ankle that some Chinese netizens considered “an impressive memory” about US bullying and political persecution against a Chinese citizen.
It has never been an easy fight for the defense team of Meng over the past two years, who has been battling with the help of the Western legal tools against extradition to the US, and reached a “pretty good” result in the eyes of both Chinese and foreign legal experts after the marathon-like legal proceedings.
Meng appeared virtually in an American federal courtroom in Brooklyn on Friday, and reached a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in a case of federal charges against her for bank and wire fraud. Under the terms of the agreement, Meng will not be prosecuted further in the US and the extradition proceedings in Canada will be terminated, according to a statement of William Taylor, one of the lawyers who represented Meng.
“She has not pleaded guilty and we fully expect the indictment to be dismissed with prejudice after 14 months. Now, she will be free to return home to be with her family,” he said.
The senior executive of Huawei was arrested by Canadian authorities in December 2018 at the behest of the US, who remained under detention in Canada pending a Canadian judge’s ruling on the US’ extradition request for nearly three years. Meng and her defense team made the final push against extradition to the US, and the legal proceedings ended on August 18 without a decision.
A statement from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said that under the terms of the DPA, Meng acknowledged that she knowingly made false statement to a financial institution in Iran-related transactions, and agreed not to commit other federal, state or local crimes.
“It’s a pretty good deal,” Gary Botting, a Canadian legal expert and author of several books on extradition, told the Global Times on Saturday, noting that through the case, many believe that the US is in no position to lead the world like a “police,” and hopefully, the US judge presiding over the prosecution of Meng will see that.
Some Chinese legal experts said that it’s not accurate to take a DPA as a guilty plea agreement, like some Western media reported, as any arrangement should be accepted by all parties. Without paying a hefty fine or admitting guilt in court is also considered a good arrangement, experts said, noting that the US would make much more compromise to “pull out a nail set by the US” in China-Canada and China-US relations.
Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times early Saturday that there are multiple factors driving the US to resolve this issue, including the consistent attitude of the Chinese government in urging the US and Canada to release Meng, and the mounting pressure that Canada has been facing as it clearly knows that if it insists on the extradition of Meng to the US, it would create irretrievable negative consequences on China-Canada relations, and also the unjustified procedures with the lack of evidence throughout the legal proceedings in Canada would further extend the legal battle many years.
The day Meng flew back home, Canadian media reported that two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – left China on a plane to Canada. Spavor was sentenced in August in China to 11 years in prison after being convicted of spying on China’s national secrets. He was ordered deported from China.
Although some Western media outlets and politicians claimed the release of the two Canadians was an example of “hostage diplomacy,” experts said Meng was a “political hostage” taken by the US and Canada, noting that mounting evidence throughout the legal proceedings during Meng’s fight against extradition showed she was the victim of political prosecution.
“In Spavor’s case, imposing the order of deportation means he may not serve his jail time in China but will be deported to Canada. It leaves room for indictment while unleashing a gesture of goodwill,” Qin Qianhong, a constitutional law professor at Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Saturday.
Kovrig and Spavor were charged by the Prosecutor General’s Office in China for crimes undermining China’s national security in June 2020. Spavor was convicted of spying on China’s national secrets and was ordered deported from China, a court in Dandong, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, announced on August 11.
Spavor was found to have taken photos and video of Chinese military equipment on multiple occasions and illegally provided some of those photos to people outside China, which have been identified as second-tier state secrets, a source close to the matter told the Global Times on September 1.
Chinese officials and diplomats reiterated that the incident of Meng is different from the cases of the two Canadians in nature.
China’s position on Meng’s case is consistent and clear, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Saturday. Facts have fully proved that this is an incident of political persecution against Chinese citizen, with the purpose of suppressing China’s high-tech enterprises, she noted.
The accusation of Meng’s so-called “fraud” is purely fabricated, she said, noting that even HSBC, which the US refers to as a “victim,” has issued documents sufficient to prove her innocence. The actions of the US and Canada were typical arbitrary detention, the spokesperson added.
“There are flexibilities in legal proceedings around the world with different factors considered, which is sometimes embedded with the nature of humanity. Releasing the two Canadian citizens unlocks the bottleneck in China-Canada ties, which was expected,” Lü said.
For Canada, which made a wrong political choice of being an accomplice of the US, it is still bearing the “bitter fruits.” The deal can also help it ease strained ties with China, especially in trade, experts said.
He Weiwen, a former senior Chinese trade official, said Canada should make a further step if it wants to mend ties with China. “For instance, to show a positive attitude in China’s participation in the CPTPP.”
The deal indicates that the US has started to face up to the bottom lines China has drawn for further cooperation, and Washington is now “correcting mistakes it has made,” experts said, noting that “it might be a turning point for China-US relations.”
China in July put forward two lists to the US during talks in North China’s Tianjin, one of which was the List of US Wrongdoings that Must Stop and the other the List of Key Individual Cases that China Has Concerns with.
China’s attitude toward the US and Meng’s case has been clear: her release is a must, and it seems bilateral ties are moving forward based on the two lists China put forward, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Saturday.
In the List of US Wrongdoings, China urged the US to revoke the extradition request for Meng among other requests.
In the list, China also urged the US to unconditionally revoke the visa restrictions over CPC members and their families, revoke sanctions on Chinese leaders, officials and government agencies, and remove visa restrictions on Chinese students.
In the other List of Key Individual Cases, China expressed serious concerns to the US on some key individual cases, including some Chinese students’ visa applications being rejected, Chinese citizens receiving unfair treatment in the US, Chinese diplomatic and consular missions being harassed and rammed into by perpetrators in the US, growing anti-Asian and anti-China sentiment, and Chinese citizens suffering violent attacks.
Gao said the US’ decision was obvious, since many things in the world such as climate change and the pandemic fight require China-US cooperation. And the US has been hurt from the deteriorating ties – inflation and debt – which made it urgent for the US to mend ties with China.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she would seek to improve US business ties with China. Raimondo said she plans to lead delegations of US chief executives overseas, including to China, to hunt for business and discuss longstanding trade issues, though nothing has yet been put on the calendar.
The US also realizes that measures that aim to suppress and contain China are useless. In the end, the world’s two largest economies must return to the right track of cooperation, Gao said.
Not to lose guard
Although the deal with the DOJ ended up with no crime and no punishment as Meng admitted wrongdoing but without a guilty plea, the agreement pertains only on Meng, Reuters said, noting that the DOJ said it is preparing for a trial against Huawei and looks forward to proving its case in court.
Huawei said in a statement on Saturday that the company expected Meng’s return and reunion with her family. Meanwhile, the company will safeguard its interests in the lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York.
Some experts also warned that though the landmark progress of the incident created a positive atmosphere for China-US ties to return to the right path, Washington has created too much trouble over the past few years in confronting China, and some severely challenged Beijing’s sovereignty. It will unlikely give up its plan of suppressing China’s high-tech development.
“It will be difficult to see fundamental changes in the bilateral relationship in the next few years, unless the US takes more brave and active moves in improving ties,” Li said.
Meanwhile, China-Canada relations have entered a period of debugging. Obstacles to the smooth development of China-Canada relations have been clearly removed. It also created conditions for Trudeau’s China policy afterwards, he noted.
For Huawei, struggling on its track of transforming from a hardware maker to software provider amid the still tight US chip ban is still a long-term work, which has been gradually making progress.
“The transformation process is painful, since it’s a transformation of the business model. But the good news is that we have gradually changed,” Xu Zhijun, Huawei’s rotating chairman, said during a roundtable interview Friday, noting that a frequent reshuffle of its senior executives is a reflection of how hard the transformation process is.
Authors: Chen Qingqing, Shen Weiduo and Cao Siqi, Global Times