Beijing detains Canadian as tensions soar over exec arrest

By AFP   December 12, 2018 | 09:40 am GMT+7
Beijing detains Canadian as tensions soar over exec arrest
File photos of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou (R) and former Canadian diplomat Michael Korvig (L). Photo by AFP/Jane Wolsak

A top Huawei executive facing U.S. accusations of Iran sanctions violations was granted bail in Canada on Tuesday.

It came hours after a former Canadian diplomat was said to have been detained in China, intensifying a diplomatic standoff between the North American allies and Beijing.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, faces extradition to the United States, where she is wanted for allegedly violating Iran sanctions, but Beijing has expressed outrage over her detention and is holding a former Canadian diplomat in China, intensifying the row.

"The risk of (Meng's) non-attendance in court can be reduced to an acceptable level by imposing the bail conditions proposed by her counsel," a judge in Vancouver said, prompting the courtroom packed with her supporters to erupt in cheers.

The list of strict conditions of her release pending the outcome of the extradition case is lengthy, and includes the surrender of her passports and electronic monitoring.

She was expected to be released shortly, and will be allowed to stay at a luxury home owned by her husband Liu Xiaozong in Vancouver.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he may intervene in the American case against her to further the trade relationship with China.

"If I think it's good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made -- which is a very important thing, what's good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary," he told Reuters.

In a statement, Huawei said it is confident the Canadian and U.S. judiciaries will "reach a just conclusion in the following proceedings."

"As we have stressed all along, Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries and regions where we operate, including export control and sanction laws of the U.N., U.S. and E.U."

Meng is accused of lying to bankers about the use of a covert subsidiary to sell to Iran in breach of sanctions. If convicted, she faces more than 30 years in prison.

The extradition process, scheduled to start on February 6, could take months, even years, if appeals are made in the case.

The United States must submit details of the accusations for the Canadian court to consider.

Earlier, the three-way diplomatic standoff over her arrest intensified with the news that China had detained Canadian national Michael Kovrig.

The former diplomat once served in Beijing but was there on unpaid leave, sources told AFP.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced concern over the detention that his ministers said was very troubling.

"This has our attention at the very highest level of our government," said Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, adding to concerns voiced by the International Crisis Group think tank, Kovrig's employer, which first raised the alarm.

China had expressed outrage over Meng's arrest in Vancouver and warned of "grave consequences" if she were not released, although Canada said no link between the two cases had been established.

Washington, which requested Meng's detention to have her extradited to US soil, called on Beijing to abide by its commitments to human rights.

"We urge China to end all forms of arbitrary detentions and to respect the protections and freedom of all individuals under China's international human rights and consular commitments," deputy State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

Electronic monitoring

Meng was arrested on December 1 while changing planes in Vancouver on the first leg of a round-the-world business trip with stops in South America and Europe.

"Given her unique profile as the face of a Chinese corporate national champion, if she were to flee or breach her order in any way in these very unique circumstances, it does not overstate to say she would embarrass China itself," Meng's lawyer David Martin argued in court on Monday.

Meng also said in a 55-page affidavit that she'd suffered numerous health problems, including surgery for thyroid cancer in 2011, and has been treated in a Vancouver hospital for hypertension since her arrest.

"I continue to feel unwell and I am worried about my health deteriorating while I am incarcerated," the affidavit read.

"I wish to remain in Vancouver to contest my extradition and I will contest the allegations at trial in the US if I am ultimately surrendered."

During a break in the proceedings, Martin said Meng had confided that she had been "working hard for 25 years" and actually looked forward to a break to spend with family, read novels and maybe apply to a doctorate program while the extradition case played out.

Her husband Liu Xiaozong presented two Vancouver homes and Can$1 million in cash -- for a total value of Can$15 million -- as a surety for his wife's release.

Four more custodians -- a local realtor, an insurance agent, a homemaker whose husband once worked for Huawei and her Vancouver neighbour, also stepped up to be guarantors.

Trade war

Meng's detention has raised tensions following a truce in the U.S.-China trade war, with Beijing summoning both the Canadian and U.S. ambassadors over the weekend.

In a sign that the criminal case may not have derailed the detente, however, top Chinese and U.S. negotiators spoke by telephone to discuss the timetable of trade talks, the Chinese commerce ministry said.

It said in a statement that Vice Premier Liu He spoke with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned in a speech in Beijing against the "bullying" of its citizens, however.

"We will fully safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese citizens and return fairness and justice to the world," he said at the opening of a diplomatic symposium, without directly referring to the Huawei case.

There was no official word from China about Kovrig.

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