Chré­tien pro­poses can­celling Huawei CFO’s extraditio­n

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

Jean Chré­tien is float­ing the idea of having Canada’s Jus­tice Min­is­ter exercise his le­gal au­thor­ity to stop the U.S. extraditio­n of se­nior Huawei ex­ec­u­tive Meng Wanzhou as the means to nor­mal­ize diplo­matic re­la­tions with China, sources say.

The for­mer Lib­eral prime min­is­ter, who last week of­fered to serve as Canada’s spe­cial en­voy to China to help free two jailed Cana­di­ans, has dis­cussed the idea of can­celling the extraditio­n process with business ex­ec­u­tives, ac­cord­ing to sources who have knowl­edge of the con­ver­sa­tions.

The pro­posal was first raised by Wen­ran Jiang, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia.

Mr. Chré­tien’s for­mer se­nior ad­viser Ed­ward Gold­en­berg, an Ottawa lawyer, has sought in­put on it from other China ex­perts, sources say.

The sources who spoke to The Globe and Mail were granted anonymity so they could speak about pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions.

The pro­posal – which has not been for­mally pre­sented to the Trudeau gov­ern­ment – would meet Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s de­mand that Ms. Meng be freed to re­turn home be­fore Bei­jing would re­con­sider reprisals it has taken against Canada.

Sources say Mr. Chré­tien and Mr. Gold­en­berg have pointed out in dis­cus­sions that the law states the jus­tice min­is­ter can end an extraditio­n process.

The Extraditio­n Act says the min­is­ter “may at any time with­draw the au­thor­ity to pro­ceed” with an extraditio­n re­quest and “and if the min­is­ter does so, the court shall dis­charge and set aside any or­der made re­spect­ing their ju­di­cial in­terim re­lease or de­ten­tion.”

Bruce Hart­ley, a spokesman for Mr. Chré­tien, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. Mr. Gold­en­berg de­clined to com­ment.

A se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial who was not au­tho­rized to speak publicly about the mat­ter would say only that it is not help­ful to discuss op­tions the gov­ern­ment may be re­view­ing to end the stand­off with China.

On Mon­day, Mr. Trudeau was asked whether he was pre­pared to en­list Mr. Chré­tien.

“We are always open to look­ing at dif­fer­ent ways of doing things … ” Mr. Trudeau told re­porters. “In re­gards to prime min­is­ter Chré­tien, I was happy to sit down with him just a few weeks ago to talk at length about the sit­u­a­tion with China and get his ad­vice.”

The Chi­nese em­bassy de­clined to com­ment on whether Bei­jing might wel­come Mr. Chré­tien as a spe­cial en­voy, with a spokesman say­ing the Trudeau gov­ern­ment has not in­di­cated whether it would em­brace this pro­posal.

In De­cem­ber, Canada ar­rested Ms. Meng, the daugh­ter of Ren Zhengfei, founder of the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany Huawei Technologi­es Co. Ltd., at the re­quest of U.S. au­thor­i­ties on al­le­ga­tions of fraud re­lat­ing to sanc­tions against Iran. Le­gal ex­perts have said the mat­ter could drag on for years if a Cana­dian court rules in favour of extraditio­n and Ms. Meng ap­peals.

Soon af­ter, China ar­rested Cana­di­ans Michael Spa­vor and Michael Kovrig on al­le­ga­tions they had vi­o­lated na­tional se­cu­rity, and im­posed trade re­stric­tions on Cana­dian canola, pork, beef and other farm prod­ucts. Since De­cem­ber, two other Cana­di­ans in China have been sen­tenced to death.

The sources said Mr. Chré­tien, who was the ar­chi­tect of the China-Canada re­la­tion­ship af­ter the rup­ture caused by the Tianan­men Square mas­sacre of 1989, ap­pears to be test­ing sup­port for a pos­si­ble solution to the Meng case.

Canada and China aren’t talk­ing at se­nior lev­els. For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land has asked her Chi­nese coun­ter­part, Wang Yi, to hold high-level talks, but he has re­fused to take her phone calls. CBC News re­ported on Wed­nes­day that Bei­jing ig­nored an at­tempt by Mr. Trudeau ear­lier this year to ar­range a con­ver­sa­tion with China’s Premier in an at­tempt in­ter­vene on be­half of Mr. Spa­vor and Mr. Kovrig.

For­mer prime min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney and the Con­ser­va­tive Party have called on Mr. Trudeau to name Mr. Chré­tien as a spe­cial en­voy, cit­ing his past ties to Chi­nese lead­ers.

Mr. Chré­tien has said pri­vately that the United States played a trick on Canada by forc­ing Ottawa to ar­rest Ms. Meng, and called the extraditio­n re­quest an un­ac­cept­able move by the United States at the ex­pense of Canada and its farm­ers and pork pro­duc­ers. He has also pri­vately said he doesn’t think Canada should pay the price for the Meng ar­rest.

Prof. Jiang, an ex­pert on China who dis­cussed with Mr. Gold­en­berg his pro­posal to have the Jus­tice Min­is­ter end the Meng extraditio­n, said Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have care­fully read the extraditio­n law and know it is pos­si­ble.

Prof. Jiang said if Mr. Chré­tien is dis­patched to China, the Chi­nese would ex­pect noth­ing less than Ms. Meng’s re­lease.

“From the Chi­nese view­point, there is re­ally no room to ne­go­ti­ate. There is no ne­go­ti­a­tion. They view Meng Wanzhou’s ar­rest as a hostage-tak­ing on be­half of the Amer­i­cans,” he said. “On the Cana­dian side, we want to stop the bleeding right way, we want the two Michaels sent home and we want trade sanc­tions and re­lated pun­ish­ment to stop.”

Prof. Jiang said he re­cently trav­elled to China, in­clud­ing to Huawei’s head­quar­ters in Shen­zhen, with UBC col­league Paul Evans. Chi­nese of­fi­cials were in­ter­ested that Mr. Chré­tien, who is re­spected by Chi­nese lead­ers, might be pre­pared to act as an en­voy, but that in it­self will not im­prove diplo­matic re­la­tions, he said.

“They say: ‘What is the pack­age? You can send anyone you want, but what is the deal?’ ” Prof. Jiang said.

How­ever, Canada’s for­mer am­bas­sador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said it would be a mis­take for the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to en­dorse such a pro­posal, par­tic­u­larly since Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Free­land have said the courts should deal with the is­sue.

“The op­po­si­tion would jump on that and pil­lory the gov­ern­ment,” he said.

The for­mer diplo­mat said that what might be even more wor­ri­some would be Don­ald Trump’s re­ac­tion, even though the U.S. Pres­i­dent has spec­u­lated that Ms. Meng could be a pawn in Chi­naU.S. trade talks. Mr. Saint-Jacques said there are solid political rea­sons he doesn’t be­lieve the Prime Min­is­ter would se­ri­ously con­sider send­ing Mr. Chré­tien. “If the gov­ern­ment were to go through all this process and gave a man­date to Mr. Chré­tien and he goes there and gets all the glory and Ms. Meng is free, well, it would give the impression that the Prime Min­is­ter is in­ex­pe­ri­enced and a neo­phyte – and good old Mr. Chré­tien is a re­li­able fixer,” he said.

FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Jean Chré­tien has said pri­vately that he doesn’t think Canada should pay the price for the ar­rest of Meng Wanzhou.

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