Sun | Oct 17, 2021

Hostage diplomacy and rule of law behind closed doors

Published:Tuesday | September 28, 2021 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

On September 24, Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou pleaded not guilty to a US Federal Court judge in Brooklyn, New York. It happened via an Internet hook-up from her lawyers’ office in Vancouver, where she had been held under house arrest for almost three years, pending extradition to the USA on bank fraud charges. Meng was very quickly freed, then delivered a very complimentary prepared speech in which she was careful to mention “rule of law”, before she departed for the airport to fly home to China.

Almost simultaneously, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – universally known as The Two Michaels – held under far less luxurious conditions in Chinese jails, were freed and flew home after a very harrowing time for them and their families. To have everything arranged with the precise timing of a very high-end Swiss watch, obviously indicates that this political release of all three was in the works for quite a while, and the media were either kept in the dark or sworn to complete secrecy, fearing a last-minute hitch. The Two Michaels were greeted in Canada by the prime minister, while Ms Meng exited her jet in China waving like a head of state, before addressing a huge welcoming party on the tarmac.

There has been much conjecture about the murky politics surrounding Meng’s arrest at the behest of the US government in December 2018, when her private jet was refuelling in Vancouver en route to a conference in Mexico City. She holds Canadian residential status, but surely the powers that be in Ottawa should have foreseen the consequences of arresting such a high-profile Chinese citizen, and should have insisted that the US government have Mexico do their dirty work on her arrival there.

Even more troubling, for those who care to remember, is how John McCallum, Canada’s very experienced ambassador to China, was unceremoniously kicked to the kerb in January 2019 for publicly being truthful to a Chinese-Canadian journalist. He had said that it would be great for Canada should the US drop extradition demands for Meng, if The Two Michaels were released as hostages.

That a diplomat dared tell the simple truth really raised hackles among Ottawa’s political and media elite, who mounted their high horses dressed as crusader knights to ride at full gallop over the soon-to-be former ambassador, all waving banners emblazoned with ‘rule of law’. Ironically, from what the world saw on September 24, it appears that what Ambassador McCallum suggested is exactly what took place, with the rule of law operating behind closed doors.

BERNIE SMITH

Parksville, BC

Canada