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Trump, Huawei, and the Politics of Extradition

Making Sense of the Meng Case

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at an investment forum in Moscow, October 2014. Reuters

On December 1, Canadian police, acting at the request of U.S. authorities, arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou during a layover in Vancouver. A judge in New York had issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest on August 22, alleging that between 2010 and 2014, Meng had conspired to commit bank fraud by concealing links between Huawei and two shell companies that it used to conduct business in Iran, enabling Huawei to access the dollar-based financial system in violation of U.S. secondary sanctions. Washington is now seeking Meng’s extradition to the United States.

The arrest was a bombshell. Huawei is the world’s largest manufacturer of telecoms equipment, and Meng is the daughter of the company’s founder and chief executive, Ren Zhengfei, a former military engineer believed to be well connected within the Chinese Communist Party. Beijing was outraged. In an op-ed for a Canadian newspaper, the Chinese ambassador accused Ottawa of “western egotism and white supremacy” and of “mocking and trampling the rule of law.” The Chinese government arrested two Canadian citizens in China on national security charges, apparently in an attempt to put pressure on Canada. It may be working—just yesterday, the Canadian Ambassador to China told Chinese-language media that Meng has a “strong case” and that her extradition to the United States “would not be a happy outcome.”

Extradition requests can walk a fine line between law enforcement and politics, as illustrated by the furor over Meng’s arrest. American authorities claim to be simply enforcing U.S. law. China, however, believes that her arrest was politically motivated—part of a larger U.S. campaign to thwart China’s technological ascendance.

Western countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have expressed confidence that Canada is following proper legal procedures in Meng’s case. Yet U.S. President Donald Trump exacerbated Chinese suspicions when he indicated, in an interview given a few days after the arrest, that he would “certainly intervene” in the Meng

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