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As Huawei CFO Gets Released On a Bail, Trump Suggests a Trade Deal With China

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested Kovrig’s employer is not properly registered as a non-governmental organization in China.

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People are escorted out of the court registry by a B.C. sheriff after the B.C. Supreme Court bail hearing of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was released on a $10 million bail in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. VOA

A court in Canada has released tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on bail as she awaits possible extradition to the United States over bank fraud allegations linked to Iran sanctions.However, in a new twist to the case that has quickly mushroomed far beyond its initial scope, U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he might intervene.

“Whatever’s good for the country, I would do,” Trump told Reuters in an interview, shortly after the ruling. “If I think it’s good for what will certainly be 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.”

 

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Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s chief financial officer, is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters. VOA

The United States has 60 days from the day of Meng’s arrest to issue a formal extradition request and provide Canadian courts with evidence. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was taken into custody on December 1 while transiting planes in Canada.

 

While her legal fate is worked out, Meng agreed to post $7.5 million in bail, hand over her passports and remain in British Columbia. She will also wear an ankle bracelet and be under 24-hour surveillance, barred from leaving a home she owns in Vancouver between 11 at night and six in the morning.

Huawei Technologies is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of mobile phones. The case against Meng is not only about violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran but deep suspicions about the company and its connections to Chinese authorities, allegations Huawei has both repeatedly denied.

 

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People walk past an advertisement for Huawei at a subway station in Hong Kong. VOA

 

Suspected intel links 

National security experts have raised concerns that data on Huawei devices could be made available to China’s intelligence services. The company is also a key global competitor in the ongoing race to roll out fifth generation or 5G mobile networks.

U.S. officials say Meng lied to banks about Huawei’s control of Hong Kong-based Skycom — a company that allegedly sold U.S. goods to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

If convicted in the United States, she could face up to 30 years in prison. Meng maintains she is innocent and some argue that U.S. authorities have a lot to prove in their case against Meng.

Zhao Zhanling, a researcher at the Intellectual Property Center of China University of Political Science and Law, argues that the United States cannot apply its local laws to a foreign company or one of its top executives.

And that is just one of many uncertainties in the case, Zhao said.

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U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. VOA

“This is a case that is politically complicated, that has diplomatic elements and is linked to the U.S.-China trade war,” Zhao said. “And under those circumstances, whether the extradition is approved or whether the U.S. will press ahead with extradition remains to be seen.”

Trump intervention 

Zhao believes there’s a good chance that Washington will give up the extradition request in exchange for a better trade deal with China.

At a regular briefing Wednesday, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Meng’s arrest was a mistake from the “start,” but welcomed Trump’s remarks.

“Any person, especially if it is a leader of the United States or a high-level figure who is willing to make positive efforts to push this situation in the right direction, then that of course, deserves to be well received,” Lu said.

Julian Ku, a professor of law at Hofstra University in New York, said that while President Trump can instruct the attorney general to withdraw an extradition request, “it doesn’t sound like he has been fully briefed on the charges against Meng and its legal basis.”

That or the “complexities of making these comments during an extradition proceeding,” he adds.

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The exterior of the Alouette Correctional Center for Women, where Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was being held on an extradition warrant, is seen in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada

For now, Ku said it is his impression that Trump does not have any plans to act one way or the other, just that he didn’t want to rule anything out.

China has argued that the case against Meng is politically motivated and the president’s comments will go a long way to bolstering that view. Some analysts also worry that it sets a dangerous precedent, putting Americans at risk and undercutting rule of law.

Beijing retaliation likely 

China has already lashed out at both Canada and the United States over her arrest, warning Ottawa of severe consequences. There are already signs that both governments may be preparing to issue travel warnings to their citizens traveling to China.

And analysts have said retaliation from Beijing is likely.

Just prior to Meng’s final day in court, Canada confirmed Chinese authorities have detained Canadian Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat who is currently a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group.

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In this image made from a video taken on March 28, 2018, North East Asia senior adviser Michael Kovrig speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. VOA

The Canadian government voiced its “deep concern” but said it sees no explicit connection between Kovrig’s arrest and the Meng case.

Others disagree.

“We are doing everything possible to secure additional information on Michael’s whereabouts as well as his prompt and safe release,” the group said in an earlier statement.

Also Read: China Warns Canada Against Severe Consequences If Huawei CFO Isn’t Released

On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested Kovrig’s employer is not properly registered as a non-governmental organization in China.

“If they are not registered and their workers are in China undertaking activities, then that’s already outside of, and breaking, the law, revised just last year, on the management of overseas non-governmental organizations operating in China,” Lu said.

ICG could not be reached for further comment. (VOA)

Next Story

Is China Heading Towards Another Cultural Revolution?

Not only did Lam lose all credit amongst the pro- democracy camp having described the June 12 protest as a "riot"

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Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam's counter-mobilisation strategy is reduced to maintaining radio silence. Pixabay

What started as a demonstration by 12,000 citizens against a proposed legislation for extradition of criminal undertrials to China has escalated into a daily assembly of over two million protesting against Chinese ainterference’ in Hong Kong, an examination of police brutality under the gaze of international press and a demand for full democracy. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s counter-mobilisation strategy is reduced to maintaining radio silence. Not only did Lam lose all credit amongst the pro- democracy camp having described the June 12 protest as a “riot”, she has also lost support of the pro-Beijing (dare I say anti-democracy?) section of Hong Kong having suspended the extradition bill that triggered the protests. Additionally, there have been anonymous accounts of the Hong Kong police expressing resentment at being forced to play a violent role in what should have been a political debate.

Meanwhile, Beijing has been content to signal its superior capability to use force (Hong Kong law allows for the administration to call upon the People’s Liberation Army in tackling issues of “public order”). Many are disconcerted by the restraint being exhibited. Particularly following the incident last week where a group of demonstrators broke into the legislative house, vandalised the official emblem of Hong Kong by blackening out the name of mainland China, it was widely believed that the PLA would be called in to quash the protests. However, this has not materialised. Why? I believe, Xi Jinping has been learning from networked mobilisations around the world. Arguably, Mubarak lost Egypt the day he let loose his militia on horseback – scattering protestors in Tahrir Square – killing a dozen people. Despite the internet shutdown, the incident was broadcast live across the world – voices against his regime grew to a din and the rest is history. While there is no threat to Jinping’s presidency, the threat of economic sanctions and perhaps a trade exile against China motivate him to avoid a modern Tiananmen.

Hong Kong 2019 – A networked movement

Much like the 2014 Occupy Protests in Hong Kong, the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street Protest in New York, Hong Kong 2019 has relied heavily on the internet for mobilisation and organisation. Such anetworked movements’ leverage platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp to achieve quick amplification and scaling, set in place informal decision making structures allowing real-time tactical moves, and organize logistics. The protesters in Hong Kong have exhibited organisational capabilities that can be traced to learnings from the failed 2014 Occupy Protests. A 20- year old student leader says, “During the Occupy protests, most of us didn’t think about protecting ourselves, we used Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to spread messages. But this year, we see that freedom of speech is getting worse in Hong Kong,”.

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What started as a demonstration by 12,000 citizens against a proposed legislation for extradition of criminal undertrials to China has escalated into a daily assembly of over two million protesting. Pixabay

Since 2014, WhatsApp has introduced end-to-end encryption. Along with other P2P clients like Signal, Telegram and Firechat it afforded organisers the ability to communicate with large numbers in a more secure forum than public Facebook groups and Twitter handles. Complimentary offline measures such as using disposable cell phones, transacting in cash, purchase of single-fare tickets on public transport and even simply keeping faces covered during protests has helped prevent surveillance and thwarted counter-mobilisation efforts.

In addition, as identified by Zeynep Tufekci in her book Twitter and Tear Gas a key feature of radically networked movements is that they are often aleaderlessa¿. The informal and horizontal nature of the mobilisation means no individual(s) can claim formal leadership over the protest. Unlike the 2014 movement which was quashed through arrests of leaders, while the 2019 movement has witnessed numerous arrests of prominent figures, mobilisation hasn’t been impacted. As such, while activists and organisations such as Joshua Wong and CHRF have thrown their weight behind the cause, by design no individual has claimed leadership of the movement.

The State’s response

Early statements of the Hong Kong Administration such as a memo dated June 9 described the protests as “an example of Hong Kong people exercising their freedom of expressiona”. However, within three days, the rhetoric and force employed by the Administration radically altered. Rubber bullets were fired at protestors and Lam termed the congregation a “riot”. To date police action has resulted in four deaths, 230 injuries and over 560 arrests.

Also Read- Netflix and OTT Platforms Slowly but Steadily Eating Cable TV Business

In addition to these measures on the ground, the Administration has taken steps online. Attempts have been made to individually penetrate channels of communication and intercept or corrupt information flows. On a macro level, the Administration has sought to spread misinformation amongst protestors – Lam’s announcement that the extradition bill is “dead”, while merely suspending it, is a classic example. In addition, the founder of Telegram, Pavel Durov has stated publicly that he believes recent outages were results of DDOS attacks by “a State actor”. However, I believe Beijing’s counter-mobilisation effort go deeper.

By emphasising the discolouration of the national emblem as an act of “radicalisma and a “threat to national sovereignty”, the State owned media has been instructed to whip up nationalistic fervour amongst citizens of mainland China. After an image of the Chinese flag thrown in the ocean surfaced online, the propaganda machine swung into overdrive -starting the hashtag #TheFiveStarRedFlagHas1.4BillionProtectors. The hashtag caught on – finding support from celebrities like Jackie Chan, while former Hong Kong chief executive Chun-ying announced a reward of 1 million HKD for information about the “culprit”.

Creating imagined enemies out of protestors is a tool of psychological warfare that could easily turn into an intra-ethnic conflict. And we are already seeing the first signs of this – A Chinese man assaulted pro-democracy protesters in the Hong Kong Airport. The incident was given a political spin and reported as evidence of growing radicalism in the protesters. More such reports have emerged. Perhaps the most alarming is the report from the University of Queensland in Australia, where a peaceful march in support of the movement in Hong Kong was attacked by pro-Chinese students. This was followed by an online doxxing attack against protesting students. Most tellingly, the Chinese consul-general, Xu Jie, has praised the “patriotic behaviour” of the attackers.

These are not isolated incidents. Xi is attempting to enlist the citizens of China in his attack on Hong Kong by playing on nationalism. He hopes to incite violence amongst the well organised pro- democracy protesters, giving him the moral authority to send in the PLA. Has Xi found the perfect tool to foil the surge of networked protestors or is China heading towards another Cultural Revolution? We will know soon – and it may set a precedent for counter-mobilization around the world. (IANS)