China has been credited with practicing “successful hostage diplomacy” in a deal that saw two Canadian citizens freed.
To make that happen, the Biden administration’s Justice Department cut a deal with Meng Wanzhou, 49, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, according to The Associated Press.
The fraud charges against Wanzhou will be officially dropped next year, and she was allowed to return to China. Meng had been held in Canada at the request of the U.S.
In the deal, Meng agreed to accept responsibility for misrepresenting Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
As Meng returned home, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were being released to come back home as well.
The men were arrested in China in December 2018 on allegations of espionage, shortly after Canada arrested Meng. They landed Saturday in Calgary.
The Trump administration’s Justice Department had accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and doing business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions by using a Hong Kong-based shell company. Meng was charged with fraud in connection with allegedly misleading the HSBC bank about Huawei’s dealings in Iran.
Brahma Chellaney, a geostrategist, said China conducted “successful hostage diplomacy.”
By letting Ms. Meng return to China, Biden has vindicated China’s holding of two innocent Canadians hostage since 2018. Canada had contended that its judicial system was insulated from any political influence. China’s successful hostage diplomacy is a real shot in the arm for Xi.
— Brahma Chellaney (@Chellaney) September 25, 2021
Some commentators said the incident was a cold, calculating action by China, which may have believed that if it took hostages, it could get its way, according to The New York Times.
“They’re not even making a pretense of a pretense that this was anything but a straight hostage situation,” said Donald C. Clarke, a law professor at George Washington University’s Law School specializing in China.
“In a sense, China has strengthened its bargaining position in future negotiations like this,” he said. “They’re saying, if you give them what they want, they will deliver as agreed.”
“When you look at this, it’s Beijing admitting that this was hostage diplomacy,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016, according to The Washington Post.
“They make no qualms about it. … I think the message to the world is, ‘Be careful, because we can go after your citizens if you cross us.’”
Lynette Ong, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, said China has left a stain on its relationships with other countries.
“Going forward, I don’t think Canada-China relations will be the same as they were 1,000 days ago,” she said. “It’s fundamentally at a different point. … I think China has underestimated the cost of playing this game of hostage diplomacy. Its reputation has been tarnished tremendously.”
Belligerent rhetoric flowed from China.
“This was the political persecution of a Chinese citizen with the goal of crushing a Chinese high-tech enterprise,” said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, according to the Times. “The actions by the United States and Canada were classic arbitrary detention.”
The United States officially praised the resolution to the long-running issue.
“The U.S. Government stands with the international community in welcoming the decision by People’s Republic of China authorities to release Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig after more than two-and-a-half years of arbitrary detention,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, according to the AP.
“We are pleased that they are returning home to Canada.”
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