Trudeau Envoy Sees Strong Case Against Huawei CFO’s Extradition

(Bloomberg) -- A Huawei Technologies Co. executive facing extradition to the U.S. has “strong arguments” to make against extradition in part because of comments by President Donald Trump, Canada’s ambassador to China said.

Trudeau Envoy Sees Strong Case Against Huawei CFO’s Extradition

John McCallum, in a news conference held near Toronto on Tuesday largely with Chinese-language media, highlighted Meng Wanzhou’s legal options after her arrest Dec. 1 in Vancouver. The U.S. is seeking her extradition, but such legal fights can take years.

“I think she has quite good arguments on her side,” McCallum said, in remarks posted to YouTube. “One, political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case. Two, there’s an extraterritorial aspect to her case. And three, there’s the issue of Iran sanctions, which are involved in her case, and Canada does not sign on to these Iran sanctions. So, I think she has some strong arguments that she can make before a judge.”

Trump has said he would consider intervening in Meng’s case if it meant reaching a better trade deal with China. Canadian government officials confirmed McCallum spoke Tuesday in Markham, a Toronto suburb with a large Chinese population.

“I think Ms. Meng has quite a strong case,” he said, adding the U.S. has filed a formal request. “Under the extradition treaty, we have to take that request seriously. It doesn’t mean we will extradite her, but it means we have to detain her and have a hearing.”

‘Unbiased and Transparent’

The comments by Justin Trudeau’s envoy to Beijing are the most detailed yet from the Canadian government on the plight of Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of its founder. Asked about McCallum’s remarks, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said “Canada is conducting a fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding” in Meng’s case.

“There has been no political involvement in this process. Canada respects its international legal commitments, including by honoring its extradition treaty with the United States,” spokesman Adam Austen said by email Wednesday.

Trudeau Envoy Sees Strong Case Against Huawei CFO’s Extradition

McCallum’s comments are the latest by Trudeau officials distancing the government from Meng’s case -- saying, essentially, Canada’s hands are tied because of an extradition treaty. McCallum said so several times in the Tuesday press conference, and Freeland made similar comments herself that day.

“‘The detention of Ms. Meng was not about a Canadian case against her. She isn’t accused of anything in Canada. She is neither charged nor convicted of anything in Canada. We have an extradition treaty with the United States,” Freeland said in an interview from Davos, Switzerland. The Huawei executive will “continue to have full access to the Canadian judicial system, which is impartial and objective.”

China’s Response

Since Meng’s arrest, China has detained two Canadians -- diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor -- for national security investigations, prompting widespread calls for their release. China has also sentenced a third Canadian man to death on a drug charge.

“Our argument is that it is not good for China if they are seen to detain individuals when one of their big companies has an issue internationally,” McCallum said in the lengthy press conference. “It is not good for the image and the reputation of these companies, and therefore for China.”

He also stressed the close ties between China and Canada -- at one point, on a personal note, saying all three of his sons had married Chinese women.

Trudeau was asked Wednesday whether he agreed with McCallum that Meng has strong arguments to make. The prime minister declined to say.

“Canada is a country of the rule of law and we will make sure that the rule of law is properly and fully followed -- that of course includes the opportunity for her to mount a strong defense,” Trudeau told reporters in Saskatchewan.

His government, meanwhile, continues to weigh whether to restrict or ban Huawei from its 5G network. “There’s pressure on Canada to say no” because other countries in the so-called Five Eyes intelligence network have done so, McCallum said.

China’s ambassador to Canada has warned of repercussions if Huawei is banned, though a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry later downplayed that remark. McCallum cited the different views in his press conference. “It seems the ambassador and the foreign minister don’t agree with each other,” he said, adding he believes the foreign ministry’s view is more senior.

Meng’s arrest “was a total surprise for everybody in Canada, but it happened and we have to deal with it,” the ambassador said. Her next hearing is scheduled for early February and will deal with bail conditions. Another in March will begin to deal with extradition, but any trial is still months away, he said. “Certainly, Canada -- through no choice of our own -- is stuck in a dispute between the United States and China,” he said.

Despite the diplomatic feud, McCallum nonetheless holds out hope that relations with China can be repaired. “This is a hiccup along the road. It’s not a small hiccup, it’s a big hiccup, but we will eventually solve it and move forward.”

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