Police were right to arrest Meng Wanzhou
There’s been an interesting undercurrent to the story of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou by Canadian officials this week. Meng is an executive with Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant, which has been long suspected of doing wiretap work for China’s intelligence services, and is thus restricted from doing business with several of Canada’s closest allies, notably the United States. Meng is also, as has been widely reported, wellconnected with the ruling regime in Beijing. And her arrest by Canada, on a U.S. warrant, has led many to wonder if China will retaliate in some way against Canada.
And what if it does? Seriously. What if it does? It probably will, in fact. It would not be surprising in the least if Beijing found some absurd excuse to clamp down on Canadian exports to China, or cancelled planned investments in our country. It’s not inconceivable that Beijing’s authoritarian regime might even arrest some Canadians on trumped-up charges as a way of pressuring Ottawa.
These are not trivial concerns. But was there any realistic prospect that Canada would not honour the American request for Meng’s arrest and extradition?
At time of writing, there is not a lot of information publicly available regarding the case due to a court-ordered publication ban. Sources have told the media that the allegations relate to Meng having sought to skirt trade sanctions against Iran. But whatever the specific allegation, Canada and the U.S. are both nations governed by the rule of law. Cross-border lawenforcement co-operation is routine and generally seamless. That includes the extradition of wanted suspects, in both directions, not least because of our long-standing extradition treaty together. It is certainly awkward for Canada, which has long sought expanded trade relations with China — despite its appalling human-rights record — to have been asked to make this arrest, particularly right when the federal Liberal government has been trying its best to cosy up to Beijing. But there were no grounds upon which Canada could refuse.
Which is precisely what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the face of considerable Chinese diplomatic and media outrage. “The appropriate authorities took the decisions in this case,” the prime minister said. “We were advised by them with a few days’ notice that this was in the works but of course there was no engagement or involvement in the political level in this decision because we respect the independence of our judicial processes.”
Exactly right. Canada can’t allow itself to be deterred from living up to its commitments and its ideals by threats. If China expected we would be, let it be disappointed.