Huawei CFO gets bail; Trump says he could intervene to free Chinese exec
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Huawei CFO gets bail; Trump says he could intervene to free Chinese exec

US president hints he may undercut Justice Department case against Meng Wanzhou in order to help forge a trade deal with Beijing

Ada Yu, left, of Vancouver and a man who wished to remain unidentified, hold a sign in favor of the release of Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou outside her bail hearing at British Columbia Superior Courts following her December 1 arrest in Canada for extradition to the US in Vancouver, British Columbia on December 10, 2018. (Jason Redmond / AFP)
Ada Yu, left, of Vancouver and a man who wished to remain unidentified, hold a sign in favor of the release of Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou outside her bail hearing at British Columbia Superior Courts following her December 1 arrest in Canada for extradition to the US in Vancouver, British Columbia on December 10, 2018. (Jason Redmond / AFP)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — A Canadian court granted bail on Tuesday to a top Chinese executive arrested at the United States’ request in a case that has set off a diplomatic furor among the three countries 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 December 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and daughter of the company’s founder.

After three days of hearings, a British Columbia justice granted bail of $10 million Canadian (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 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

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.

A BC Supreme Court Sheriff watches over the crowd waiting in line to enter the courtroom to watch the bail hearing for Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou on December 10, 2018 in Vancouver, Canada. (Rich Lam/Getty Images/AFP)

Amid rising tension between China and Canada, Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed Tuesday 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 previously worked as a diplomat in Beijing, Hong Kong and the United Nations, was taken into custody Monday night during one of his regular visits to Beijing, according to a spokesman for International Crisis Group, where Kovrig now works as North East Asia adviser based in Hong Kong.

Canada had been bracing for retaliation for Meng’ arrest. The Canadian province of British Columbia canceled a trade mission to China amid fears China could detain Canadians to put pressure on Ottawa over Meng’s detention.

“In China there is no coincidence,” Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, 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.”

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou (Courtesy)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi didn’t mention Meng by name. But ministry spokesman Lu Kang 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 violation of US sanctions. It says Meng and Huawei misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters in Washington “the charges against Meng pertain to alleged lies to United States financial institutions” about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

“It is clear from the filings that were unsealed in Canada, Meng and others are alleged to have put financial institutions at risk of criminal and civil liability in the United States by deceiving those institutions as to the nature and extent of Huawei’s business in Iran,” Palladino said.

Meng has denied the US allegations through her lawyer in court, promising to fight them if she is extradited to face charges in the United States.

“We have every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach a just conclusion in the following proceedings,” Huawei said in a statement.

“As we have stressed all along, Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries and regions where we operate, including export control and sanction laws of the UN, US, and EU. We look forward to a timely resolution to this matter.”

Huawei, the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies, is the target of US security concerns. Washington has pressured other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.

The US and China have tried to keep Meng’s case separate from their wider trade dispute and suggested Tuesday that talks to resolve their differences may resume.

But US President Donald Trump undercut efforts to distinguish between trade talks and the Huawei case. In an interview with Reuters, he said Tuesday that he would consider intervening in the Justice Department’s case against Meng if it would be in the interest of US national security or help forge a trade deal with Beijing.

US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hand with China’s President Xi Jinping at the end of a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Fred DUFOUR)

The Chinese government said its economy czar had discussed plans with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer for talks aimed at settling the two countries’ differences. Lighthizer’s office confirmed he had spoken by phone with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

The news that trade negotiations may resume lifted stock markets around the world.

The United States has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports in response to complaints Beijing steals American technology and forces US companies to turn over trade secrets.

Tariffs on $200 billion of those imports were scheduled to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent on January 1. But Trump agreed to postpone those by 90 days while the two sides negotiate.

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