Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei, was released from house arrest in Vancouver on Friday and allowed to return to China after striking deals with U.S. Justice Department. Within hours, two Canadians that the Chinese government had arrested shortly after Meng’s arrest in December 2018 were also freed, marking an end to the three-year diplomatic tensions between China, the U.S. and Canada surrounding the case.
Meng was arrested on fraud charges on December 1, 2018 in Vancouver, and had been since put under house arrest in Canada. Prosecutors accused Meng of misleading HSBC into breaking U.S. Sanction law by concealing the relationship between Huawei and a company in Hong Kong called Skycom. Meng’s legal team denied the charges with evidence from the presentation material Meng used on the day in question, and argued that no real harm was done to the bank.
Contextualised in the US-China trade war that broke out in March 2018, Meng’s extradition case was inevitably loaded with political calculations. On multiple occasions, former U.S. president Donald Trump expressed intention to use the case as a “bargaining chip” in trade negotiations with China. The Chinese government interpreted the arrest as part of an anti-China campaign, calling it an “outright political persecution with no justice whatsoever”.
On September 17, Canadian media outlet The Globe and Mail reported that the U.S. Department of Justice and Meng Wanzhou’s lawyers had resumed talks. Canadian sources said that the U.S. would drop extradition requests and criminal proceedings against Meng if she agreed to plead guilty and pay a hefty fine.
According to a statement by Nicole Boeckmann, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Meng pleaded not guilty to the charges on her final hearing on Friday in New York. As part of the agreement, however, she took “responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution.”
In a speech on Friday, referring to her long-waited release, Meng expressed gratitude to the Chinese Embassy to Canada for their consistent support. She thanked the Canadian court for their professionalism, and the Canadian government for “upholding the rule of law”. Meng said her life had been “turned upside down” in the past three years. “But every cloud has a silver lining”, she continued, “it was really an invaluable experience in my life.”