Huawei, Meng Wanzhou and the two Michael: a diplomatic-judicial saga

Meng Wanzhou and his lawyers in Canada (Photo: Getty Images)

The US government and the chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, reached an agreement on Friday that paved the way for ending a three-year court battle between Beijing, Washington and Ottawa. which allowed the official to leave Canada for Porcelain.

Back to the most significant moments of this saga.

An arrest in Canada

On December 1, 2018, Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the request of the US authorities during a stopover at the Vancouver airport.

Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecommunications giant is accused of lying to circumvent US sanctions against Iran.

This crime is punishable by more than 30 years in prison in the United States, to which it is threatened with extradition.

On December 11, a judge ordered his release on a bail of 10 million Canadian dollars (6.5 million euros). You are allowed to live in one of their villas in Vancouver, but you must wear an electronic bracelet.

China threatens Ottawa with “grave consequences” if its citizen is not released.

Two Michael arrested in China

On December 13, 2018, China confirmed that it had taken “coercive measures” against two Canadians, arrested three days earlier, whom it suspected of “activities that threaten their national security.”

They are Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat previously stationed in Beijing, and consultant and businessman Michael Spavor, a specialist in North Korea.

For many observers, these measures are a response to Ms. Meng’s arrest.

Canada denounces “arbitrary” detentions.

Death warrant

In January 2019, tensions between Beijing and Ottawa escalated when a court in northeast China sentenced 36-year-old Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death.

Arrested in 2014 for drug trafficking and sentenced in the first instance to 15 years in prison, the man suddenly surfaced, and the court judged the initial sentence too “lenient”.

“Arbitrary detention

On May 17, 2019, China formally arrested MM. Kovrig and Spavor, more than five months after their arrest.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls the move “unacceptable.”

On August 22, the United States stepped forward: US chief diplomat Mike Pompeo spoke of “arbitrary detention.”

To (re) read, the analyzes of François Normand:

Towards a warming of trade relations with China?

Let’s avoid putting other Canadians in China at risk

Judicial setback

In May 2020, a court in Canada ruled in favor of continuing legal proceedings against Meng Wanzhou with a view to his extradition to the United States. This decision raised hopes of a warming of relations between Canada and China.

11 years in prison

A month later, the Chinese courts formally indict MM. Kovrig and Spavor for “espionage” and “disclosure of state secrets.”

In a closed-door trial, Michael Spavor was sentenced in August 2021 to 11 years in prison, a verdict deemed “absolutely unacceptable” by Ottawa. No decision has yet been announced in Mr. Kovrig’s case.


After three years of tensions, appeasement?

The US government on Friday proposed in a New York court to “postpone” the trial against Meng Wanzhou until the end of 2022, an agreement ratified by the courts.

In the process, a Canadian judge ordered the release of Ms. Meng and closed the process.


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