China’s ongoing fight with Canada over Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou

The battle between China and Canada over the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to the United States continues to have a number of repercussions. Today Bloomberg Business reported there are indications that Huawei’s lawyers have been violating a U.S. judge’s order regarding documents involved in her case.

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn, New York, had ruled that thousands of pages of classified documents turned over by the U.S. government to Huawei’s defense lawyers couldn’t be shared with anyone in China or with Meng, but federal prosecutors said Wednesday that recent filings by the CFO in her extradition case show she’s had access to them.

“Huawei is circumventing the restrictions properly established in the U.S. criminal case,” and using the evidence materials “to assist Meng in her repeated attempts to conduct a trial on the merits in Canada,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Solomon said in a letter filed with the court.

Meng’s extradition case is finally winding down and should be over sometime in May. Between now and then she’ll continue to spend her time living like a princess. Meanwhile, the “two Mikes,” two Canadians who were arrested in China specifically to provide leverage aimed at forcing Canada to release Meng, are still in prison. Both men were tried on trumped up charges last month but neither case came to any resolution:

China held a secret trial Monday for a second Canadian citizen, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, in an espionage case that is widely viewed as China seeking leverage to pry Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou away from Canadian and U.S. authorities.

But after 10 hours, Kovrig’s trial ended like the March 19 trial of business executive Michael Spavor, the other Canadian involved in the case: with no verdict, no transparency on the court proceedings and no new information about the fate of either man.

These weren’t trials, they were not-so-subtle reminders that China is holding hostages. The lack of an outcome is meant to point out that their fates haven’t been sealed yet. Canada still has time to give China what it wants, i.e. find some pretense to release Meng rather than extradite her to face trial in the U.S.

Would Canada really cave to CCP hostage takers making demands? According to a column written by Josh Rogin for the Washignton Post today, Canada already has. Rogin’s piece is titled “How an attempted Canadian kowtow to China backfired.”

The Halifax Forum, an annual conference of officials and experts from democratic countries, had planned to announce it was giving [Taiwanese President] Tsai the John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service during the forum’s virtual event last November. But those plans were scrapped at the last minute when Canadian Defense Ministry officials threatened to pull Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan from participating in the forum, as well as canceling its funding for the event if the Tsai announcement was made, several sources involved in the discussions told me. During the forum, there was no mention of the award.

This week’s disclosure of the defense ministry’s ultimatum sparked a scandal in Canadian politics. During testimony to a Canadian parliamentary committee, Sajjan called the report “absolutely false,” saying that the forum is independent and free to choose its own awardees. But multiple sources directly involved told me that the ultimatum was delivered directly during a Nov. 9 phone call between Deputy Defense Minister Jody Thomas and Halifax Forum President Peter Van Praagh. Thomas said that if the Tsai award went forward, Sajjan would not participate and the funding relationship would be dissolved, the sources said. (A ministry spokesman confirmed the call but denied any threats or ultimatums were made and said the event was fully funded.) Thomas referenced ongoing negotiations between Ottawa and Beijing over the “two Mikes” as a reason for not upsetting Beijing, the sources said.

The good news is that the Halifax Forum is refusing to back down. An official with the group told Rogin, “We were always going to give this award to President Tsai. We are giving it to Tsai. We are not wavering from that.” China is not going to be happy about that.

As for Canada, they don’t seem to have learned the most important lesson about giving concessions to hostage takers. If China learns that it can take hostages to impact not just a foreign court but also the behavior of a foreign defense minister, guess what China is going to do. Not upsetting the hostage taker makes sense if you have a SWAT team lining him up for a headshot, but as a general policy tiptoeing quietly around egregious behavior is a very bad idea.

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