China furious as Meng freedom hope dashed

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 29 May 2020

Huawei's Sabrina Meng Wanzhou suffered a legal setback when a Canadian judge ruled that proceedings to extradite her to the United States will go ahead.

The decision on double criminality, a key test for extradition, found that bank fraud accusations against Meng would stand up in Canada.

The ruling rejecting Meng's attempt to gain her freedom means she will continue to live in a Vancouver mansion under strict bail conditions while her case plays out.

It also dashed hopes for a mending of Canada-China relations, which soured following her arrest on a US warrant in 2018 during a stopover in Vancouver.

"The double criminality requirement for extradition is capable of being met in this case," British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes said.

Prosecutors accused Meng, chief financial officer of Huawei, of committing fraud by lying to a bank. That is a crime in both Canada and the United States.

Outside the courthouse, protesters held placards that read "Extradite Meng Wanzhou," "No Huawei in Canada" and "Canada don't let China bully us."

Huawei said it was disappointed by the ruling, adding that it looked forward to Meng ultimately being exonerated. China's embassy in Ottawa accused the United States of trying to bring down Huawei and Canada of being an accomplice.

"The whole case is entirely a grave political incident," it said. "We once again urge Canada to take China's solemn position and concerns seriously, immediately release Ms Meng Wanzhou and not to go further down the wrong path."

Beijing has long signaled that her repatriation was a precondition for improved bilateral ties and its release of two Canadians detained on espionage suspicions.

The arrests of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor nine days after Meng was taken into custody have been widely decried as retribution.

During four days of hearings in January, the court heard that Meng lied to HSBC about Huawei's relationship with its own Iran-based affiliate Skycom in order to secure nearly US$1 billion (HK$7.8 billion) in loans and credit, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions.

Holmes noted that her ruling in no way makes a determination on whether there is sufficient evidence to justify extradition. That question will be decided at a later stage in the proceedings.

The case now continues to a second phase, yet to be scheduled, when the defense will challenge the lawfulness of her arrest, followed by more hearings likely in September.

Any appeals could further drag it out for years.

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