The Political Stand-Off Between China And US Following Huawei Case

Meng Wanzhou detention case used as a political battle between the US and ChinaPhoto By: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

The on-going legal battle between Huawei, China’s top tech company, and the United States have started a political storm between the two countries.

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, on December 1st at Vancouver International Airport for the U.S. government prompted a legal debacle amongst the two countries. 

Huawei is one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker and smartphone brand alongside Samsung and Apple.

The Chinese company is one of the major key players in the roll-out of 5G technology, which is touted as the next groundbreaking technology in the market that will be able to open countless opportunities; able to surpass the current 4G LTE.

But the United States, long wary of Huawei, is pressuring allies to limit the company’s participation in 5G networks, saying it poses a national security threat.

The US arrested Meng for the basis of national security. Meng was accused of deceiving banks over Huawei dealings that potentially violated Iran trade sanctions.

US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen said in a press statement in January, “They willfully conducted millions of dollars in transactions that were in direct violation of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, and such behavior will not be tolerated.”

Moreover, Washington says that Beijing could use the company’s equipment for espionage on other countries, as well, although it hasn’t provided any evidence to support these claims.

However, Meng and Huawei both deny the charges. Huawei denies that any of its products pose national security risks and says it would refuse any request by Beijing to use them for espionage.

Many Chinese viewed this move as Trump’s administration’s attempt at a political move to gain leverage in the clash between two countries over trade and technology.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has suggested that he could consider the cases against Huawei as part of ongoing trade talks with China.

China was not very pleased with the move the US has made, and Meng’s arrest set off a diplomatic furor and severely strained Canadian relations with China. As a counter, Beijing has accused Washington of a politically motivated attempt to hurt the company.

In light of current proceedings, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on December 10th, shortly after Meng’s alleged illegal detention. It is an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng.

China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission said in a statement, as a “major development” in the case, former diplomat Michael Kovrig was accused of gathering and stealing “sensitive information and other intelligence” in China since 2017.

Businessman, Michael Spavor is accused of providing intelligence to Kovrig and is described as an “important contact” for the former diplomat.

“Kovrig’s alleged behavior of gathering and stealing secrets and other intelligence for a foreign power has seriously violated Chinese laws,” the statement said.

Kovrig and Spavor haven’t had access to a lawyer or to their families since being arrested.

Lynette Ong, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto who focuses on China, quipped that the detained Canadians should take Beijing to court for violation of basic human rights, taking a leaf from the Meng lawsuit.

“The violation of their human rights is so much more grave than the violation of her constitutional rights,” Ong said. “But that’s not even possible for them. The fact that they were denied a lawyer in the first place means they are not entitled to any justice.”

In January, more than a hundred former diplomats, academics and activists wrote an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for the immediate release of two Canadians.

The tension rises later in January as a Chinese court suddenly opens a retrial and sentenced Candian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death on drug trafficking charges after he was previously given a custodial sentence overturning a 15-year prison term handed down earlier.

In the wake of that ruling, Ottawa issued new travel guides for its citizens in China that warned of “the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

China issued its travel warning for Canada in response, citing the “arbitrary detention” of a Chinese citizen for a third country as a reason for the notice.

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