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  • Writer's pictureAmChamUS

What Huawei Heiress Arrest Means for International Law

A Chinese woman was scheduled to land at Vancouver International Airport in a few hours, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had an arrest warrant out for her based on a request from the United States.

That woman was Meng Wanzhou, and she was the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, and the daughter of the company's founder.

She was arrested in Canada in December 2018.

Her lawyers are pursuing a multi-pronged strategy to prevent her being extradited to the U.S. on charges of misleading the bank HSBC in a way which might lead to it breaking U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Meng's lawyers have been arguing that there was abuse of process in the way the arrest was carried out.

The facts of Meng's case giving rise to her legal defense of abuse of process involve her arrival at Vancouver airport, and subsequent detention and interrogation by Canadian Border Services Agency officers until her arrest by RCMP officers some three hours later.

The disputed facts are that collusion between the RCMP and CBSA was used to facilitate interrogation and search, without legal advice, in an attempt to obtain factual and physical evidence which might not, by virtue of the law, have otherwise been obtainable had the RCMP arrested Meng immediately.

Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting the extradition from under house arrest in Vancouver.

Another challenge centers on politics around the case. Her lawyers claim that comments made by then U.S. President Donald Trump indicated a willingness to use the case as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China, and constitutes an abuse of process.

As the legal process will play itself out until a Canadian court makes a determination based on facts, a more worrisome aspect to the Meng trial has been its effect on international trade between Canada and China.

The Canada China Business Council said Chinese retaliation "hit Canadian businesses hard," with a 43 percent decline in bilateral dealings in 2019.

In February 2019, China began delaying Canadian canola shipments, and by June of the same year, China had blocked all pork shipments from Canada.

AmChamUSA seeks trade and investment agreements that are fair and accountable, which create a level playing field, and puts American families and workers first.

An arrest of a high-profile international businessperson that is politically motivated is antithetical to the principles of AmChamUSA, as it undermines credibility and judicial independence. But for a country or countries to further use the arrest as a means to retaliate through economic means and protectionist trade barriers, or worse, seek to exploit it for political gain, flies in the face of building sustainable trade that benefits all business stakeholders.

Canadian law requires the individual facing extradition to be charged with an offense that is not only criminal in the United States, but also under Canadian law. Judicial authorities must fulfill their duties under the U.S. Canada extradition treaty and under domestic Canadian law.

Yet Canada has become the primary villain of the ordeal, with China threatening serious consequences, including those relating to trade.

Extradition treaties must not be used as a pawn where trade and politics is concerned, especially when it has the propensity to undermine the norms of international relations, diplomacy, trade rights and international law.

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