New administration in the White House: did anything change for the Sabrina Meng’s case

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Huawei CFO Sabrina Meng’s U.S. extradition case in Canada is entering its last phase of arguments. Most recently judge of the Meng's case rejected her lawyers request to include an affidavit from a Huawei accountant as evidence that would have shed light on the company’s financial practices and helped prove Meng’sinnocence on the charges of bank fraud. The final hearing of the case will be in May, but the potential for appeals from either side means the case could drag even longer. Meng was detained by the Canadian authorities at the behest of the US Department of Justice on December 1, 2018, at Vancouver InternationalAirport while she was having a stopover on the way to Mexico. She is facing possible extradition to the United States on charges of bank fraud over misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to violate U.S. sanctions. U.S. authorities reportedly had attempted to persuade nine other countries to arrest Meng and to hold her for extradition before Canadian authorities finally agreed to cooperate.

The implementation of her arrest can be seen as questionable. She was not told that she was under arrest or that an arrest warrant had been issued until almost three hours later, despite a warrant that called for her "immediate arrest". She also was not advised of her rights. Even so, her baggage was searched and she was questioned by the Canadian BorderServices Agency officers about Huawei’s operations around the world including Iran. According to the testimony of one of the Canadian police officers involved in Meng’s arrest her electronic devices were confiscated and she was compelled to provide the passcodes based on the request of U.S. authorities. These actions leave a mark on Canada’s judicial system and question its integrity.

Ten days after the arrest of Sabrina Meng when asked if he would intervene with the Justice Department in her case President Trump said: “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.” This implied that Huawei wasn’t really seen as a real national security threat, but just as a bargaining chip in trade war against China. Lawyers Meng’s lawyers have wanted her U.S.extradition case dismissed on grounds that Trump’s comments meant that she would not get a fair trial in the United States. Canadian prosecutors have tried to render Trump’s statements irrelevant by pointing out that he has since left office and the trade deal has been already signed. However, damage done by these statements won’t be mended by a mere change of the administration and questions the rule of law and the integrity of the judicial system.

It’s widely expected that President Biden will reinstitute the Iran nuclear deal leading to the removal of the country’s sanctions, which were first imposed under president Jimmy Carter and then dismantled under Barack Obama and his vice-president Joe Biden, then reimposed by Trump. Possible removal of sanctions would leave us waiting to see how it would affect Sabrina Meng’s case that is mainly based on a claim fraud related to violation of these sanctions.

In the past President Donald Trump’s administration used its influence outside the U.S. to pressure foreign governments to restrict the use of Huawei's technology, especially in 5G. Trump boasted in a press conference that “We convinced many countries — many countries —and I did this myself, for the most part — not to use Huaweibecause we think it’s an unsafe security risk. It’s a big security risk.” This has led the UK to ban mobile providers from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after 31 December 2020 Providers must also remove all Huawei's 5G kits from their networks by 2027. Move that was estimated by Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden to cost up to £2bn and delay 5G roll-out for "two to three years". Sametime Korean telecom giant LG Uplus has declared that Huawei’sequipment does not pose any security risks. So far it seems that President Biden’s new administration will continue its predecessor's policy on sanctioning Huawei’s technology in the United States, as in March 2021 they labeled five Chinese tech companies, including Huawei, as national security risks. Also Biden administration amended licenses for companies to sell to Huawei, move that further restricted companies from supplying items for Huawei’s 5G devices.

In a tech news site Protocol's survey of tech workers in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the U.S. only 46% said they agree that Chinese telecom company Huawei should be banned from the U.S. This shows that even among the tech professionals majority do not want to solve trust problems in technology by the political decision of banning a company. We should aim to create new standards and regulations for possible security issues that will restore trust and not let adaptation of new technologies be limited by political rivalries between nations.


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Jari-Pekka Raitamaa

Founder and CEO of China Business Forum

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