Freeland praises Huawei CEO trust in Canada legal system

Ren Zhengfei
File Photo of the founder of China's Huawei, Ren Zhengfei

Ottawa: Canada’s top diplomat has praised Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei for trusting the Canadian legal system as his daughter fights extradition to the United States.

Meng Wanzhou, also a Huawei executive, was arrested in Vancouver last month on a US warrant over Iran sanctions-linked fraud charges — a move Chinese ambassador to Canada Lu Shayne branded “backstabbing” earlier in the day.

“I think those were very gracious comments he made,” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday. “I think it’s very natural that he would be concerned about his daughter. And I was glad to hear directly from him that he feels his daughter has been treated fairly by the Canadian judicial system and with kindness, and certainly the objective of the Canadian government is that our judicial system should treat everyone impartially, fairly and indeed with kindness.”

In a rare meeting with reporters this week, Ren had said: “I trust that the legal systems of Canada and the United States are open, just, and fair, and will reach a just conclusion.” He also thanked Meng’s cellmates “for treating her kindly” before she was granted bail, days after her arrest.

Ottawa and Beijing remain locked in an escalating row. In a move widely seen as a counterstroke, Chinese authorities arrested former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor last month, accusing them of endangering national security.

Ottawa insisted they had been “arbitrarily” detained and that interrogations of Kovrig breached the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations – allegations Beijing flatly rejected.

Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler went further, accusing China in an email to The Canadian Press of “hostage diplomacy.” On Thursday, ambassador Lu Shayne warned of “repercussions” if Canada joins intelligence-sharing allies in barring Huawei from its 5G networks – and urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to back off recruiting international support in the feud.

Australia, Britain, France, Germany, the European Union and the United States have all backed Canada’s demand for its citizens’ release. Trudeau has also raised their plight in recent calls to the leaders of Argentina, Finland, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore.

Next week, Freeland will lead a Canadian delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, where they will press Canada’s case to world leaders and business executives. Lu also warned against this.

Freeland has called Beijing’s recent behavior “a threat to all countries.” Meanwhile Canadian ambassador to China John McCallum, back home to brief lawmakers, said Thursday: “I think we have to engage the senior Chinese leaders and persuade them that what they are doing, it’s not good for the image of corporate China in the world.”