Courtesy, patience, due process required
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/12/2018 (1642 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The government of China pulled out all the rhetorical stops on Sunday by telling Canada to release Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of the U.S. government as she changed planes in Vancouver. U.S. prosecutors believe she defrauded a bank by lying about her company’s affairs. They also believe she tried to sell U.S.-made goods to Iran in defiance of U.S. government sanctions.
The Chinese foreign affairs department summoned Canadian Ambassador John McCallum and U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad on Sunday to demand Ms. Meng’s release. The arrest, foreign affairs vice-minister Le Yucheng told Mr. McCallum, “severely violated the Chinese citizen’s legal and legitimate rights and interests, it is lawless, reasonless and ruthless, and it is extremely vicious.” The statement also warned Canada of “serious consequences” if it doesn’t release Ms. Meng.
Whew! That sounds like we did a really terrible thing. But actually, we do the same for any country with which we have an extradition treaty — as we have with the U.S. We don’t hold or release detained persons on the basis of how loudly their home government screams abuse at us, nor do we weigh the intensity of the epithets they fling. Rather, we ask a judge to evaluate the extradition demand in open court and then the minister of justice has to decide what to do. This is hard for the accused person, but it is neither lawless nor reasonless, not ruthless nor the least bit vicious.
All of this takes time — some extradition cases drag on for years when the evidence is hard to come by. If China continues to seek a political solution, short-circuiting the judicial process, we could be in for a long, difficult period in Sino-Canadian relations.
The Chinese diaspora in Canada includes some wealthy people who still have interests in China and who are also significant donors to Canadian political parties. If those people start using their political influence to interfere, Canadian political figures might be drawn into the case. Many Canadian firms are counting on China to buy their products or invest in their expansion plans. These, too, are pressure points China may use if it continues to believe political pressure is the best way to resolve the Meng Wanzhou case.
Canada should ask for Chinese patience with our examination of the case. We should avoid flinging insults back at China, which can only make matters worse.
We should be completely open about the information provided to the Canadian authorities. We should treat Ms. Meng with all possible courtesy and consideration.
At the same time, we should quietly extract from China the Canadian nationals who are most vulnerable to detention by the Chinese police. The same Chinese authorities who think verbal abuse can help their case are also likely to think of hostage-taking and exchange of prisoners as an efficient means to achieve their goals. In the fluid state of Chinese law, anyone in China can be arrested any day of the week and soon convicted of something.
The Meng Wanzhou case may be part of the wider economic struggle between the U.S. and China, but that is neither here nor there in the merits of the extradition demand. If the U.S. government has made out a credible case for putting her on trial, we should give them Ms. Meng. If they have not, we should set her free.