How Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's extradition request escalates tensions between US, China and Canada

It is a case which has captured the essence of the escalating tension between China and the United States over trade and technology that is being fought between the two economic superpowers all over the world.

Today marks another chapter in the many twists and turns since it began almost two years ago.

At its heart is the daughter of one of the most powerful commercial figures in China - Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of the telecoms giant Huawei and daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei.

She is currently fighting a US request for her extradition from Canada where she has been held since 1 December 2018, after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong.  

Ms Wanzhou and her lawyers returned to court in Vancouver today for the latest hearing in her case which has led to significant tension between Beijing and Washington.

The case has also put Canada in a difficult and potentially damaging position between the two superpowers.  

Ms Meng Wanzhou is the chief financial officer of Huawei. Credit: AP Photo

On 1 December 2018 Ms Wanzhou landed in Vancouver in what she thought would be a brief stay but could end up being up to 10 years long.

She was arrested after the US lodged an extradition request accusing Ms Wanzhou of fraud linked to what Washington says was a scheme by Huawei to breach trade sanction on Iran, charges that Ms Wanzhou denies.

US authorities have said Ms Wanzhou misled HSBC bank of information that revealed the nature of Huawei’s relationship with a company which was providing telecoms equipment to Iran, thus exposing HSBC to possible violations of sanctions against Tehran.

Lawyers for Ms Wanzhou are trying to undermine the US request for her extradition by arguing the case against her is essentially political.

They cite comments by US President Donald Trump in which he suggested he was willing to use the case against Ms Wanzhou as a bargaining chip in the US's trade negotiations with China and that this constitutes an abuse of process by the US.

President Donald Trump during Monday’s White House news conference Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

Furthermore, Ms Wanzhou's lawyers claim there is evidence of involvement of US authorities in her arrest by Canadian authorities. 

Ms Wanzhou's lawyers are seeking the release of classified documents which they allege proves this, but so far this has been turned down by the Canadian courts.

In particular, this case puts Canada in a tricky position and it has already felt the consequences of this tussle between US authorities and one of the most powerful families in China whose company is the largest privately held commercial entity in China. 

After Ms Wanzhou’s arrest, Beijing has arrested a former Canadian diplomat, Michael Kovrig and a Canadian businessman, Michael Spavor on suspicion of spying.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been detained in China. Credit: AP Photo

Four other Canadians have been sentenced to death in China, accused of drugs offences.

China denies that these arrests are in anyway connected to Ms Wanzhou’s case but many western analysts believe the move was intended to put pressure on Canada.

There is little chance this case will be concluded anytime soon as there are likely to be huge amounts of appeals and counter appeals. 

However today’s hearing will determine the scope and legal battle lines when a full hearing of the case resumes early next year.

Speaking to ITV News a spokesman for Huawei in Canada said: “As expressed consistently, Huawei has confidence in Ms Meng’s innocence and we trust in the Canadian judicial system to reach that conclusion.

"Accordingly, Huawei will continue to support Ms. Meng’s pursuit of justice and freedom." Huawei’s spokesman also told ITV News: "U.S. President Donald Trump has ‘poisoned’ this case by threatening to use Ms. Meng as a bargaining chip in his trade war with China.

"We look forward to a fair, impartial, and just outcome.”

Regarding how Ms Meng is coping psychologically with this long process, Huawei’s spokesman in Canada told ITV News: "Ms. Meng is a strong and resilient person.

"She feels sorry for the disruption this has caused to her family.

"Her two youngest children were in North American schools at the time of her arrest, and this has obviously upended their lives.

"But she remains focused on doing her job as CFO for the company, and follows developments in her case closely."