Written by Anson Yeh
Edited by Bhromor Rahman
Our world is constantly striving to develop new technologies. The last two decades have seen a technological revolution at a speed unimaginable since the invention of the steam engine; in my short lifetime, I have witnessed everything from the dawn of flip phones to the advent of biometric artificial intelligence. In fact, the recent focus of big tech has been on 5G, artificial intelligence and renewable energy. Chinese companies such as Huawei and Xiaomi have been at the forefront of progress with Huawei being a national scale leader in developing new 5G devices and infrastructure. Huawei Technologies Co. is a Chinese multinational technology company that claims to be independent and private, but is allegedly funded in part by the Chinese government. In 2018, Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei, was arrested by Canadian officers at the behest of the United-States who accused her of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Why Meng Wanzhou?
Meng is the deputy chair of the board and CFO of Huawei Tech. Co., founded by her father Ren Zhengfei. China’s largest privately held company is currently the second largest phone manufacturer in the world and also excels in researching 5G technology. By stirring chaos within the company, in this case by arresting Meng Wanzhou, the United States is attempting to upend China’s technological revolution. The official arrest was justified by allegations that Meng purposefully misinformed several banks concerning Huawei’s business transactions in Iran, breaking U.S. sanctions against the country. But herein lies the problem: Meng was arrested in Canada. Canada is not the country responsible for these sanctions against Iran and is effectively doing the United-States’ bidding by arresting a high profile Huawei executive on a provisional extradition request. Consequently, in response to this arrest, Chinese authorities swiftly arrested two Canadians who were in China: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
The story begins in August 2018 when a court in New-York issues an arrest warrant against Meng who was to be extradited and tried in the United-States. When American authorities learn that she would be passing through Vancouver International Airport, they notify their Canadian counterparts. Asa result, in December 2018, Meng was arrested by the RCMP in Vancouver between her transfer. Her belongings were seized and she was questioned for three hours. Canadian border guards who wrote down the passcodes of her devices then ‘‘mistakenly’’ handed them to the RCMP.
Meng’s rights abused?
There is much controversy surrounding the fact that Meng was detained and searched rather than immediately arrested. The official explanation is that border guards are required by law to conduct admissibility examinations on all those who enter Canada and that they aren’t legally allowed to perform an arrest. However, since her arrival was expected, this leads some to believe that this interrogation was planned and performed at the request of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which would be in violation of Canadian constitutional rights, since it was known at the time that she Meng to be arrested anyways.
Between a rock and a hard place
The highly mediatised arrest made Canada appear as if it were a puppet of the United-States, leading many Chinese-Canadian citizens to air their grievances at the Trudeau government. At that point, the United-States was expecting Meng to be delivered to their doorstep (with a nice ribbon perhaps), but much to their frustration, without a valid reason to extradite Meng (besides stopping Huawei’s immense success in its tracks), Canada would not be able to do so.
Canada’s current options and their (possible) consequences
To properly understand whether Canada’s decision in meddling with Huawei and the U.S. was effective, let’s consider the possible courses of actions and their potential outcomes.
Scenario 1: Trudeau delivers Meng to the United States. This would heighten tension between Canada and China resulting in a serious economic blow to (mostly) Canada. Whether this would result in a friendlier relationship between Canada and the US is up to you; in my opinion, Donald is not the most rational president and would simply use Meng as a political talking point to secure his reelection.
Scenario 2 (impossible): Canada allows Meng to return to China in exchange for the two Canadians. This would (as you would have guessed) have the opposite result of scenario 1. Thus, the relationship between Canada and its hegemon, domineering and run by a crazy person neighbor would degrade to a point that it would have disastrous consequences on us and our economy as the United States is the largest importer of Canada’s natural resources.
Since I have presented both hypotheses as highly unlikely, am I suggesting that Trudeau was right in his decision?
No, the opposite in fact.
Sometimes, the best course of action is to do nothing; the PM’s gravest mistake was interfering in the first place. Canada was uninvolved with affairs concerning U.S. sanctions on Iran and Huawei’s business in that country. By placing ourselves in between these two opposing superpowers, we are forced into a highly tenuous situation that we had nothing to do with in the first place. Canada had no reason to involve itself in this mess and the ramifications for us are immense (such as the unfortunate arrests of Michael 1 and Michael 2).
In layman’s terms, the USA has no legitimate reason for Canada to extradite Meng, Canada is unable to deliver her back to China for fear of US-Canada relations going further downhill, and Meng herself is just enjoying life in her multi million dollar mansion in Vancouver, with guards following her everywhere she goes (fully funded by we the taxpayers, woohoo!).
So, the 3.2 billion dollar question (that’s her net worth; mine is higher): should Meng Wanzhou be released back to China.
In my opinion, yes.
Would it make Canada look like it’s giving in to China’s “bullying”? Absolutely.
Would it anger our crazy southern neighbor (who already doesn’t like Trudeau anyways)?
(you like when I do this don’t you?)
Canada would remove itself from being the middleman in this chaotic China vs US modern cold war. We would no longer be involved and our relationship with both superpowers would at least not worsen any further. Our tax dollars could go fund some other useless project (yay?).
And above all, we would free two Canadian citizens: Michael and Michael.
But to get to that point, we need to open a dialogue with China. The sooner, the better. For all of us.