China hopeful of Huawei executive's release as her case goes on trial

huawei-logo-Reuters Huawei's logo at the IFA consumer tech fair in Berlin, Germany | Reuters

As China and the US signed the phase-1 trade deal to end their bitter two-year tariff war, expectations are high in Beijing on the release of a high-profile Huawei executive by a Canadian court, which will begin the hearing into her extradition to America on Monday.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecom giant and daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei, was detained in Vancouver on a US warrant in late 2018 for allegedly lying to banks about violating Iran sanctions and put under house arrest. She denies the allegations.

Her arrest put the 47-year-old at the centre of the US and China's battle over Huawei's growing global reach. The hearings into whether the Huawei executive can be extradited to the US will begin on Monday in Vancouver.

China has been asking Canada to release Meng, saying she has been falsely implicated in the case.

Her arrest stunned China considering the iconic status of Huawei in the country whose sales revenue has increased to $121 billion last year despite ban of its products and technology by the US.

Following Meng's arrest, China detained two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, in what was widely seen as retaliation. They were accused of harming China's national security. China also stopped some key Canadian imports. 

At stake of Monday's case are issues of sovereignty, the framework of international relations and Meng's freedom," Beijing-based current affairs commentator Einar Tangen said.

To extradite Meng, the US government must meet the terms of its extradition treaty with Canada, which requires, among other things, that any alleged crime must also be a crime in Canada. The government's problem is that the violations of US unilateral sanctions are not crimes in Canada and therefore the extradition case should be dismissed," he told PTI in Beijing.

Meng's case is important because it is a bellwether on what will become of sovereignty and the framework of international relations," he said.

Expectations are high in China that she could be released following the January 15 phase one deal with US under which China has agreed to increase its imports of US goods and services by at least $200 billion.

China has also agreed to undertake structural reforms to its economic and trade regime in respect of agriculture, currency and foreign exchange, financial services, intellectual property and technology transfer.

US President Donald Trump who kicked off the trade war in 2018 against China is demanding Beijing to reduce massive trade deficit.

His demands included an intrusive verification mechanism to supervise Beijing's promise to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.

Huawei's lawyers argue that her case is politically motivated aimed at securing the trade deal and slow down the company's efforts to roll out 5G telecom technology.

It is not clear yet whether her case was part of the negotiations between the US and China in the run-up to the phase one deal.