English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Why is China punishing Canadians ahead of the trial of Huawei chief’s daughter?

Meng Wanzhou, Chief Financial Officer of Huawei

Taking a cue from Washington, China is imposing “maximum pressure’’ to arm twist Canada not to extradite Meng Wanzhou  daughter of powerful Huawei Chief to the  United States.

On Wednesday, a Chinese court in Dandong, a city on the edge of the North Korean border, on the railway route between Pyongyang and Beijing, sentenced Michael Spavor, Canadian diplomat to 11 years in prison on charges of spying.

Only a  day earlier, another Chinese court  upheld the death sentence of Robert Schellenberg, another Canadian, accused of drug dealing. Schellenberg had been facing 15-year prison sentence, which  was raised to death penalty following Meng’s arrest at Vancouver airport on December 1, 2018.

Why is China playing hardball with the Canadians? Analysts say that the Chinese are desperate to get Meng, daughter of Huawei Chief, Ren Zhengfei, a well-known Beijing insider,  released and brought home.  An inability to do so would have three consequences. First, it can undermine confidence of China’s top elite in the current leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), led by General Secretary Xi Jinping, as it will convey an impression that the Party cannot protect one of its own.

Also read:  China opens trial against espionage-accused Canadian

Second the CCP leadership dreads Meng’s extradition from Canada to the United States. If that happens, it will be much harder to get Meng back to China. Third, the case has become a shadow boxing match between China and the United States before a global audience. As a rising power China does not want to lose face.

Meng,  the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Ltd.  was arrested on U.S. charges of being untruthful to the Hong Kong arm of the HSBC, about her dealing with Iran, violating trade sanctions that had been imposed against Tehran.

The Chinese say there is a bigger subtext to the saga of Meng’s detention. The real target for the incarceration they say is Huawei, which has emerged as one of the world leaders of cutting edge 5G technology, and other innovations, undercutting Washington’s habitual lead in some hi-tech sectors.

The timing of the harsh sentences against the two Canadian nationals is therefore crucial.

The sentencing comes ahead of a major hearing of Meng’s case at a Vancouver court, where her fate can be decided. Meng's extradition hearing is set to begin on Wednesday.

When the Associated Press asked Canadian ambassador to China, Dominic Barton on whether Canada was negotiating over possibly sending Meng home in exchange for the release of detained Canadians he replied: ,  “There are intensive efforts and discussions. I don’t want to talk in any detail about that. But that will continue.”

The Canadian envoy said he did not think that it was a coincidence that the sentencing was taking  place in China, when Meng’s case was advancing in Vancouver.