With files from Howard Solomon
The British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that the extradition process for Meng Wanzhou, Huawei chief financial officer and the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, will move forward. The decision Wednesday by B.C. Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes says the U.S. allegation of fraud would also be considered a crime if committed in Canada, and therefore her extradition process should continue.
“Huawei is disappointed in the ruling today by the Supreme Court of British Columbia,” Huawei said in a media statement. “We have repeatedly expressed confidence in Ms. Meng’s innocence. Huawei continues to stand with Ms. Meng in her pursuit for justice and freedom.
“We expect that Canada’s judicial system will ultimately prove Ms. Meng’s innocence. Ms. Meng’s lawyers will continue to work tirelessly to see justice is served.”
The decision hinged on whether Huawei could defend against Canada’s Double Criminality rule, which states that Canada can extradite an accused to another country if the person is suspected of breaking the same law in Canada. Huawei has argued that since Canada does not have a trade sanction against Iran, Wanzhou did not break any Canadian law in Canada and should be freed. Ottawa has been delaying making a decision on the extradition request by the U.S.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday he has faith in Canada’s justice system and trusts its decisions.
“We don’t need to apologize or explain the decisions taken by our independent justice system. We have confidence in that system, in its independence, and we of course will continue to abide and defend our system,” he said.
Wanzhou was arrested on December 1, 2018, at the Vancouver International airport under the allegations of fraud and violating a U.S. trade sanction. After the supreme court granted her a CA$10 million bail, Wanzhou was placed under house arrest in her Vancouver home while she waited for extradition proceedings. Huawei immediately called for Meng’s release, claiming that her arrest was unconstitutional and the allegations unfounded.
The ruling also complicates the government of Canada’s relationship with China, which has vigorously objected to Wanzhou’s detention. And it complicates Canada’s relationship with the U.S., which has been pressuring it as a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing co-operative to refuse to allow Canadian wireless carriers to buy 5G networking equipment from Chinese manufacturers.
Huawei has had a tumultuous relationship with the U.S. The U.S. government included Huawei on an Entity List in August 2019, forbidding U.S. companies from doing business with the Chinese tech giant. The exclusion was sparked out of concern that Huawei’s 5G equipment could be used as spying tools by the Chinese government.
Canada is part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance along with New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., and Britain. New Zealand and Australia, along with the U.S., initiated a total ban on Huawei 5G equipment. The U.K. government has recently allowed Huawei to be included in its 5G network, but has limited its application to the access network and capped its presence to 35 per cent of the total network. Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre initiated another review into Huawei’s telecommunication equipment this week.
In accordance with China’s National Intelligence Law passed in 2017, all Chinese organizations would be required to cooperate with the state’s intelligence network when requested. Huawei has maintained that it’s not building backdoors in 5G network gear, nor is it gathering data for the Chinese government.
Meanwhile, Canadians Michael Kovrig, a diplomat on leave, and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, who were arrested in China shortly after Wanzhou was detained, remain behind bars there. Their detention is widely seen as retaliation for Canada’s decision to arrest Wanzhou.
In fighting the extradition, Wanzhou’s lawyers argued Canada dropped its sanctions on Iran in 2016 so the double criminality test has not been met. The case, they argue, is about the alleged violation of sanctions.
Canadian federal lawyers argued the case is about fraud, which is identical in both countries. Justice Holmes agreed.
“The effects of the U.S. sanctions may properly play a role in the double criminality analysis as part of the background or context against which the alleged conduct is examined,” she ruled.
The next step is for Holmes to rule on the larger question whether Wanzhou’s alleged conduct would justify her being committed to trial in Canada under a fraud charge. Failure to meet that test would mean the extradition would stop, although Ottawa could appeal.
At the same time, Canada has delayed its decision on whether to allow Huawei and other Chinese-based telecom manufacturers to sell next-generation 5G network equipment to Canadian wireless carriers. Some government experts worry about the security risks of Chinese equipment in wireless networks, especially if that gear is in the network core, while others argue risk mitigation procedures can counter any problems.
In addition to pressure from the Chinese government for a favourable decision, Canada is being squeezed by the U.S., which has demanded its allies in the Five Eyes intelligence co-operative to reject Chinese equipment in the upcoming 5G networks of carriers. Australia has already agreed. In January the U.K. said it would prevent its carriers from buying wireless network equipment from “high risk” 5G manufacturers for their network core.
However, last week U.K. news services reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been squeezed by a large section of his caucus and will order British carriers to completely eliminate Chinese equipment from their networks by 2023.
The original article has been updated on May 27 at 3:54 with comments from Huawei.