Huawei's Meng 'no longer fears unknown' despite 'torment, struggle' of last year

VANCOUVER — Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou says she has experienced feelings of helplessness, torment and struggle since being arrested in Canada one year ago, but no longer fears the unknown.

In a post Monday on the Chinese telecom company's website, Meng, 47, said she has passed the time on bail in one of her comfortable homes in Vancouver reading books, chatting with colleagues and painting.

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Canadian authorities took Meng into custody at the request of the United States on allegations of violating sanctions on Iran, and her extradition case is now winding its way through British Columbia's Supreme Court.

Soon after Meng was arrested, Beijing detained two Canadians, entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig, over accusations of undermining China's national security, developments considered in Canada as retaliation for Meng's arrest.

Canadian officials have met with Kovrig and Spavor several times, but the two have been denied access to lawyers or family while in detention.

Meng said in her post that she sees the dense forests slowly turning the hills around her home to a deep crimson as part of the beauty of nature.

"If a busy life has eaten away at my time, then hardship has in turn drawn it back out," she said, contrasting her working life as chief financial officer of Huawei to her current "luxury of taking my time and enjoying my surroundings."

"Right now, time seems to pass slowly. It is so slow that I have enough time to read a book from cover to cover. I can take the time to discuss minutiae with my colleagues or to carefully complete an oil painting."

She thanked her supporters for showing up in court, saying their passion warms her heart.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said last month he had spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, about Spavor and Kovrig at a G20 meeting, soon after taking over the portfolio.

He said securing their release was his "absolute priority" as relations with China hit a new low following the men's arrests, nine days after Meng was taken into custody at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018.

Champagne said he expressed Canada's concerns regarding "the conditions of the men's detention" and that he and Wang were committed to continuing the discussions.

On Nov. 22, China's ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, reiterated his government's longstanding hardline position, saying Meng's arrest and extradition case amount to arbitrary detention, leading to the problems the two countries are experiencing and that releasing Meng would pave the way for bilateral relations to return to normal.

Hua Chunying, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, told a news conference on Monday that she was touched by Meng's blog post, adding that she is "an innocent Chinese citizen held without cause."

"China's position on this incident is clear cut and firm. The U.S. and Canada abused their bilateral extradition treaty and arbitrarily took compulsive measures against a Chinese citizen without cause," she says in a transcript posted to the ministry's website.

Meng's lawyers told B.C. Supreme Court last week in a written submission that the United States is "dressing up" its complaint that she violated sanctions as a case of fraud and asked a judge to decline the extradition request.

She is accused of lying about Huawei's relationship with its Iran-based affiliate Skycom to one of its bankers, HSBC, but she denies any wrongdoing and the allegations have not been tested in court.

The U.S. Department of Justice has laid 13 criminal charges, including conspiracy, fraud and obstruction, against Meng, whose father founded Huawei. The indictment accuses Huawei and Meng of misrepresenting their ownership of Skycom between 2007 and 2017 in an effort to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Defence lawyers have said the case is really about the United States seeking to enforce its sanction laws against Meng for conduct that took place outside both the U.S. and Canada.

The attorney general of Canada has not yet filed its written arguments but has previously called the focus on sanctions a "complete red herring."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2019.

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