Saturday, September 25, 2021

To Get Back Arrested Executive, China Uses a Hardball Tactic: Seizing Foreigners (VIDEO)

I'm still shaking my head at this story. 

The woman was living in two million-dollar homes for three years and the U.S. was never able to extradite her. 


China plays hardball and we don't? Appalling. 

At NYT, "The speed at which Beijing returned two Canadians held seemingly tit-for-tat in exchange may signal comfort with the tactic":

In a rapid-fire climax to a 1,030-day standoff, China welcomed home a company executive whose arrest in Canada and possible extradition to the United States made her a focus of superpower friction. In getting her back, Beijing brandished a formidable political tool: using detained foreign citizens as bargaining chips in disputes with other countries.

The executive, Meng Wanzhou, landed in China on Saturday night local time to a public that widely sees her as a victim of arrogant American overreach. By the same turn, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians detained by Chinese officials just days after Ms. Meng had been arrested, were released and arrived in Canada.

The exchange resolves one of the festering disputes that have brought tensions between Washington and Beijing to their worst point in decades. But it will likely do little to resolve deeper issues including human rights, a sweeping clampdown in Hong Kong, cyberespionage, China’s threats to use force against Taiwan, and fears in Beijing that the United States will never accept China’s rise.

The swiftness of the apparent deal also stands as a warning to leaders in other countries that the Chinese government can be boldly transactional with foreign nationals, said Donald C. Clarke, a law professor specializing in China at George Washington University’s Law School.

“They’re not even making a pretense of a pretense that this was anything but a straight hostage situation,” he said of the two Canadians, who stood trial on spying charges. Mr. Spavor was sentenced last month to 11 years in prison, and Mr. Kovrig was waiting for a verdict in his case after trial in March.

“In a sense, China has strengthened its bargaining position in future negotiations like this,” Professor Clarke said. “They’re saying, if you give them what they want, they will deliver as agreed.”

Chinese media reports chronicled her release and flight home, skipping over her admission of some wrongdoing or saying that it did not amount to a formal guilty plea. On China’s internet, Ms. Meng was praised as a patriotic symbol of China standing up to Western bullying. Her plane was met on the tarmac at the airport in Shenzhen, China, by a rapturous crowd waving Chinese flags.

“Without a powerful motherland, I would not have my freedom today,” Ms. Meng said in a statement issued from her flight.

Chinese news media scarcely mentioned the release of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig, leaving the impression that Beijing gave nothing away for her return.

To say that the apparent swap signals a thaw in relations would be premature at best, experts said.

President Biden has designated China as a key challenge to American pre-eminence. The releases came as he hosted the first face-to-face leaders’ meeting of the Quad, a grouping of the United States, India, Japan and Australia, united by their apprehension about China’s power and intentions in Asia. This month, Mr. Biden unveiled a new security agreement with Australia and Britain, and plans to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

While Canadian officials and American prosecutors have insisted that they treated Ms. Meng’s case as purely a legal matter, politics has lurked in the background since she was arrested at an airport in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018.

Nine days later, security officers took Mr. Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, from a street in Beijing. Mr. Spavor was seized on the same day in Dandong, a Chinese city opposite North Korea, a country where he long did business. While Ms. Meng was allowed to live in her Vancouver mansion, the two Canadians were confined to prison under much harsher conditions.

Chinese officials rejected the idea that Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor were in effect hostages. But Canadians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, scoffed at their denials, and Chinese officials and media commentators occasionally implied that there could be a trade-off in return for Ms. Meng’s release.

The United States alleged that in 2013 Ms. Meng lied to a bank over whether Huawei — the telecommunications company founded by her father, Ren Zhengfei, and where she was chief financial officer — had kept control of a company that did business in Iran in violation of American sanctions. Ms. Meng’s lawyers argued that she had been truthful.

Despite posturing on both sides, the United States and Ms. Meng had some incentive to find common ground in part because neither felt entirely sure they would win the fight over extraditing her, according to two additional people with knowledge of the talks...

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