A Canadian court on Tuesday granted bail to a top Chinese executive arrested at the US’ request in a case that has set off a diplomatic furor among the three nations and complicated high-stakes US-China trade talks.
Hours before the bail hearing in Vancouver, China detained a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in apparent retaliation for the Dec. 1 arrest of Huawei Technologies Co (華為) chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), the daughter of the company’s founder.
After three days of hearings, a British Columbia justice granted bail of C$10 million (US$7.5 million) to Meng, but required her to wear an ankle bracelet, surrender her passports, stay in Vancouver and its suburbs, and confine herself to one of her two Vancouver homes from 11pm to 6am.
The decision was met with applause in the packed courtroom, where members of Vancouver’s Chinese community had turned out to show support for Meng.
She left the courthouse surrounded by a security detail and was driven away without responding to questions from reporters.
Amid rising tension between Beijing and Ottawa, Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed earlier that a former Canadian diplomat had been detained in Beijing.
The detention came after China warned Canada of consequences for Meng’s arrest.
“We’re deeply concerned,” Goodale said. “A Canadian is obviously in difficulty in China... We are sparing no effort to do everything we possibly can to look after his safety.”
Michael Kovrig, who worked as a diplomat in China and elsewhere, was taken into custody by the Beijing Bureau of Chinese State Security on Monday night during one of his regular visits to Beijing, said the International Crisis Group, for which Kovrig works as North East Asia adviser.
Rob Malley, the head of the Brussels-based non-governmental organization, said Canadian consular officers had not been given access to Kovrig.
He thinks Kovrig was in Beijing on personal matters and was definitely not there for any reason that would undermine Chinese national security.
Canada had been bracing for retaliation for Meng’ arrest. The Canadian province of British Columbia canceled a trade mission to China amid fears Beijing could detain Canadians to put pressure on Ottawa over Meng’s detention.
“In China there is no coincidence,” former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said of Kovrig’s detention. “Unfortunately, Canada is caught in the middle of this dispute between the US and China. Because China cannot kick the US they turn to the next target.”
Earlier in the day, China vowed to “spare no effort” to protect against “any bullying that infringes the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.”
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) did not mention Meng by name, but ministry spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) said Wang was referring to cases of all Chinese abroad, including Meng’s.
Washington accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in a contravention of US sanctions.
It says Meng and Huawei misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.
The US and China have tried to keep Meng’s case separate from their wider trade dispute and on Tuesday suggested that talks to resolve their differences could resume, but US President Donald Trump undercut efforts to distinguish between the trade talks and the Huawei case.
In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, he said that he would consider intervening in the US Department of Justice’s case against Meng if it would be in the interest of US national security or help forge a trade deal with Beijing.
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