In interviews with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Liberal MP Andrew Leslie and Michael Hirson, Asia director at the Eurasia Group, posited that part of the reason for the rough reaction from China to Meng’s arrest and Canada’s willingness to carry it out lies in fundamental misunderstandings of just how deep respect for rule of law and the Canadian relationship with the U.S. work, even in times of challenges, such as under the current U.S. president.
“I think there are very wise people who know Canada well who reside in and around Beijing so they probably understand it, but there will be some people in China who find it difficult to understand just how fervently Canadians cling to the rule of law,” said Leslie, who is a retired Canadian Forces lieutenant-general and one of the parliamentary secretaries to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
“Some people might see rule of law as an anchor — raise and lower as you see fit — but in Canada it’s an absolute.”
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On Dec. 1, Canadian police arrested Meng in Vancouver at the behest of American authorities.
The Americans allege that the company she leads has been using a subsidiary to skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran and want her extradited to face charges.
Huawei, however, is one of the crown jewels of Chinese industry.
Meng was released on bail on Dec. 11, one day after Chinese authorities detained two Canadians: former Global Affairs Canada employee Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, founder of a travel company that brings people to North Korea.
Chinese authorities say both are accused of “endangering national security,” though what that actually means is not clear.
Both detentions have been characterized by observers as retaliation for the arrest of Meng, though Freeland said on Friday during a press conference that Chinese officials have not directly linked the cases in talks so far.
Still, the fact that China appears to be retaliating against Canada for the arrest rather than the U.S. for making the request is telling, Hirson said.
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“China is venting at Canada because it feels, from a strategic point of view, there are limits to what it can do directly against the United States,” he told Global News.
“There’s also a sense of real frustration by Beijing that Canada would be willing to honour this request from the U.S. There is a broader issue here China faces: they have been quite surprised at the willingness of U.S. allies to stand by the U.S. on some of these really intense geopolitical issues between the U.S. and China.”
He noted that this has likely thrown the Chinese for something of a loop.
“China thought there would be more of an opening to sort of hive off U.S. allies from the United States because of the frustration with [U.S. President Donald] Trump,” he said.
“But what you find is many, including Canada, are not so quick to downplay the relationship with the U.S. and many share these concerns — national security concerns — about Huawei and Chinese foreign policy.”
The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have placed restrictions on Huawei or barred the company outright from bidding on critical telecommunications infrastructure.
Those moves come amid years of speculation that the company, founded and run by a former member of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, could have spyware embedded in components of its parts that could be weaponized to spy for the Chinese government.
Huawei denies the speculations, but Canada is also currently in the midst of a review of the technology.
That review is expected to determine whether the company will be allowed to be part of the new 5G spectrum being built here in the coming years.
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