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Huawei exec's lawyers say Meng is a 'pawn' in China-US feud

David BALL
·3-min read
Laywers for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou allege that she is a "pawn" in a trade conflict between the United States and China

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers on Wednesday accused former US president Donald Trump of making the Huawei executive a "pawn" in a China-US trade conflict.

Meng, 49, is fighting extradition to the United States, where she faces charges of bank fraud and conspiracy for allegedly concealing her company's business dealings, through a subsidiary, in Iran.

Her defence team asserts that abuses by Canada and the United States have denied her the right to a fair process, and therefore Canada should quash the US extradition request.

They argued in the Supreme Court of British Columbia that Trump's remarks just days after Meng's arrest during a Vancouver stopover in December 2018, in which he said he might intervene in her case in exchange for Chinese trade concessions, "poisoned" her extradition trial.

According to defence lawyer Richard Peck, these were not mere "off-hand comments" but repeated on "multiple occasions" and echoed by other high-level members of Trump's administration.

"These words cast a pall over these proceedings and they reduce Ms. Meng from a human being to a chattel," Peck said.

"The then-president of the US co-opted the extradition process in an effort to leverage Ms. Meng and her legal status in US trade negotiations with China," he told the court.

"Ms. Meng became a bargaining chip -- a pawn -- in this economic contest between two global superpowers."

- Threat to US dominance -

The daughter of Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei is accused of having lied to the HSBC investment bank about Huawei's relationship with subsidiary Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Iran as it continued to clear US dollar transactions for Huawei.

If convicted, she could face more than 30 years in a US prison. Both Meng and Huawei deny the charges.

Lawyers for Canada's attorney general have urged the court to toss the claims about Trump, saying they are "moot" now that he has left office.

"During the time he was in office, there is no evidence that he did intervene," the government lawyers said in court filings. "The very thin basis on which this application was launched has vanished (and so) the court should decline to hear it."

Echoing Beijing's position, Peck alleged that the US drive to prosecute Meng is part of "a concerted and coordinated effort by the US government to debilitate and destroy Huawei."

"Huawei is seen as a threat by the US, a threat to its historical place as the world's economic power, its dominance in the field of technology," he said.

Washington has accused Huawei of stealing American trade secrets, and last year banned US semiconductor chipmakers from selling to China's top global technology firm.

In the meantime, Canada has found itself squeezed between the two as it seeks the release of two of its citizens, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, arrested in apparent retaliation for Meng's detention.

Meng's extradition case is expected to end in mid-May, barring appeals.