One of Huawei’s Canadian bosses says he is concerned about the “politicization” of its CFO’s case south of the border, but dodged questions on why the firm won’t speak out more strongly for the two Canadians arbitrarily detained in China.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, the executive and former director of issues management for Stephen Harper’s government insisted Huawei Canada respects Canadian laws but did not answer when asked whether the branch would call for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
“Well, you know, we’re concerned. We’ve said that we want the two governments to work together to find a resolution that can bring them home as soon as possible,” said Alykhan Velshi, vice president of corporate affairs of the Canadian branch of the Chinese company.
“With respect to Meng Wanzhou, obviously she has access to Canadian court, she has lawyers here and we remain confident that she will be found innocent because she is innocent and we remain alarmed by the politicization of her trial down in the United States.”
He would not clearly explain why the domestic branch of the company isn’t saying the same for fellow citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, detained by the Chinese government in apparent retaliation for Canada’s observance of its extradition treaty with the U.S.
Under that extradition treaty, Canada honours roughly nine in every 10 requests from the U.S. and it is the courts that decide on the merits of a case for extradition, with the ultimate decision lying at the very end of the process with the Minister for Immigration only in the event extradition is approved.
“If you’re alarmed by that politicization, are you not alarmed that these Canadian citizens are being held on what the Canadian government says are completely specious charges?” Stephenson asked Velshi.
“As I’ve said, we’re concerned. I think all Canadians are concerned by what’s happening over there by their treatment and we want this resolved as soon as possible,” he responded.
“But the solution can only be found by governments working together — by our government here in Ottawa, by the government in China, diplomats working together so we can bring them home as soon as possible. That’s our hope and I think that’s the hope of all Canadians.”
Kovrig, a diplomat on leave from Global Affairs Canada, and Spavor, an entrepreneur, were detained by Chinese authorities last December.
The action came just days after Canadian authorities arrested Meng on a provisional warrant from the United States. Shortly afterwards, the U.S. charged her and her company with allegedly skirting sanctions on Iran and stealing corporate secrets.
Kovrig and Spavor were held without charge until May 2019, when China formally arrested them on accusations of spying.
They have been kept in conditions described as “harsh,” with no access to lawyers and with the lights on 24 hours a day.
They have received only limited consular visits.
Meng, meanwhile, is out on bail and living in one of her Vancouver homes.
She is currently fighting extradition to the U.S., a process that could take years.
Huawei is seeking to bid on the upcoming 5G spectrum auction but faces allegations from intelligence agencies and experts around the world that it poses a national security risk because of a Chinese law that requires Chinese companies to spy for the state if requested.
Canada is currently in the midst of a review on whether to allow Huawei to bid in that auction.
Officials here are under pressure though from the Americans, who have deemed Huawei an unacceptable security risk and implemented a ban on U.S. companies using its technology. However, they have also issued repeated exemptions to that ban, most recently last month.