In his open letter to Canadians, I thought China’s ambassador to Canada was being obtuse by wilfully ignoring Canada’s legal obligations. Now I realize that legalities are not a concern of China’s.
Under our extradition treaty with the U.S., Canada had an obligation to arrest the CFO of Hauwei Technologies, Wanzhou Meng, because the U.S. Department of Justice alleged that her company violating American trade sanctions on Iran.
Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye says that we should worry about our independence:
”While Canada has continued to stress its judicial independence, did it insist on that independence when facing the United State’s unreasonable request (Globe and Mail, December 13, 2018)?”
He doesn’t seem to understand the rule of law. International extradition treaties are not about independence, they are about legal obligations.
On re-reading the ambassador’s letter, I realize that I have been naive. While Mr. Shaye overlooks what’s inconvenient to his argument (who hasn’t done that on occasion?), he grasps the raw politics involved. Ambassador Shaye continues:
“The detention of Ms. Meng is not a mere judicial case, but a premeditated political action in which the United States wields its regime power to witch-hunt a Chinese high-tech company out of political consideration.”
The use of the term “witch-hunt” in reference to Ms. Meng is unfortunate but his characterization of the politics is spot-on. U.S. President Trump admitted as much in an interview with Reuters. In reference to using Ms. Meng as a bargaining chip in his trade deal with China, he said:
“If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”
President Trump has just handed Ms. Meng a gift. Her lawyers will convincingly argue that the motives of the U.S. are political, not legal. Prof. Rob Currie of Dalhousie University, an expert in extradition law, agrees. “Oh yes,” he said, “He [Trump] has given her arguments, for sure (Globe and Mail, December 12, 2018).”
Trump wants to destroy Hauwei because it threatens U.S. global dominance. Canada does not extradite anyone when the motivations are political.
Now I realize that the failure of the Chinese ambassador to mention the legality of extradition is more than an oversight. It demonstrates that China is a lawless country. China has demonstrated that uncomfortable fact by the arbitrary and unwarranted arrest of Canadians Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor.
It’s uncomfortable because it demonstrates that China would not hesitate to violate any trade agreement it had with Canada that it found inconvenient.
It’s uncomfortable, as well, to awaken to the reality that our neighbour and largest trading partner is no longer our friend; whose president would use us as a bargaining chip as well.
It’s entirely possible that Trump ordered the arrest Ms. Meng to punish Canada for our failure to prohibit Huawei from entering Canada’s construction of our new 5G network.
It’s not beyond Trump’s machinations to betray anyone on a whim -as his widening circle of former advisors and friends would surely attest.