Champagne says Meng ruling demonstrates judicial independence — as China warns of 'grave political incident'

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said today that the B.C. Supreme Court's ruling in the case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou demonstrates the independence of Canada's extradition process.

Global Times, an English-language paper close to China's Communist Party, warns ruling could damage relations

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Thursday, January 23, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said today that the B.C. Supreme Court's ruling in the case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou demonstrates the independence of Canada's extradition process.

"The Canadian judiciary operates independently and today's decision on double criminality in Meng Wanzhou's extradition process was an independent decision," Champagne said.

"This decision is but one component in a multi-step legal process. The Government of Canada will continue to be transparent about the extradition process for Ms. Meng."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said China "expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this decision," adding it has made "serious representations with Canada."

"The purpose of the United States is to bring down Huawei and other Chinese high-tech companies, and Canada has been acting in the process as an accomplice of the United States. The whole case is entirely a grave political incident," the spokesperson said.

"We once again urge Canada to take China's solemn position and concerns seriously, immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou to allow her to return safely to China, and not to go further down the wrong path."

Despite a ruling that has angered Communist leaders in Beijing — Meng's father, the founder of tech company Huawei, has close ties to the regime — Champagne said Canada will "continue to pursue principled engagement with China to address our bilateral differences and to cooperate in areas of mutual interest."

Champagne said Canada will press for the release of two imprisoned Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and clemency for Canadians who are facing the death penalty in China. Kovrig and Spavor were detained by Chinese authorities shortly after Meng's arrest, a move widely seen as an act of retaliation.

'U.S. bullying'

Global Times, an English-language newspaper with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, offered another interpretation of the ruling today. The publication claimed the decision by Justice Heather Holmes "shows Canada lost judicial, diplomatic independence to U.S. bullying."

Holmes ruled that the U.S. allegation against Meng — that she engaged in fraud by misrepresenting Huawei's relationship with an Iranian telecommunications company when seeking a loan from the HSBC bank — could also be considered a crime in Canada, and so extradition proceedings against the Huawei executive should proceed.

Meng's lawyers argued that she shouldn't be extradited to the U.S. because the criminal charges she faces there don't meet the "double criminality" test — that the alleged violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran has no parallel in Canadian law.

But the judge found that the Iranian sanctions are secondary to the principal criminal allegation — that Meng lied to the bank when trying to procure a loan for her businesses, which could also be considered a criminal act in Canada.

Under Canadian extradition law, an individual may only be extradited to face trial on foreign charges if the underlying conduct would amount to a criminal offence in Canada if it had happened here.

"A further hearing will take place at a later date to determine whether or not the alleged conduct provides sufficient evidence of the offence of fraud to meet the test for committal under the Extradition Act," the Department of Justice said in a statement.

"An independent judge will determine whether that test is met. This speaks to the independence of Canada's extradition process."

If that judge decides that Meng should be extradited to the U.S., the final decision to surrender the Chinese executive to the U.S. will fall to Justice Minister David Lametti.

Law, not politics

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, the Conservative critic for multiculturalism and Canada-China relations, said the rule of law is "foundational to our way of life" in Canada.

"Unlike in the Communist system in China, decisions like today's are based on law, not on politics," he said. "All decisions made by the Liberal government going forward must be based on the rule of law and Canada's international obligations, and not based on politics.

"Conservatives continue to demand that the Chinese Communist Party end the arbitrary and unlawful detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and comply with its own international obligation."

Warnings from the 'experts'

The Global Times, citing named and unnamed Chinese "experts," said the judge's "unjustified" decision will damage Sino-Canadian relations.

The publication said the court's decision came as a shock in China because there were "widespread expectations" that Meng would be set free.

On Saturday night, Meng staged a photo shoot on the steps of the B.C. Supreme Court building in apparent anticipation of a victory.

The ruling will make the bilateral relationship "worse than ever," He Weiwen, a former senior trade official and an executive council member of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Chinese newspaper.

The paper also cited Mei Xinyu, a source described as an "expert close to China's Commerce Ministry."

Mei said the court decision will impose lasting damage on the economic relationship between the two countries.

"Canada has been under U.S. pressure since the beginning, or it could have benefited from the trade war between the world's two largest economies," Mei said.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 on an extradition warrant.

She is accused of lying to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong about Huawei's control of a company that was said to be violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.


John Paul Tasker

Senior writer

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.


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