The release of Meng Wanzhou and two Michaels may ease tensions between Canada and China, but challenges remain, experts say

The agreement between Meng, a Huawei executive, and US prosecutors ends a nearly three-year battle that unfolded in a Vancouver courtroom and deeply froze relations between Canada and China.

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A sudden US settlement deal announced Friday that freed Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and the subsequent release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, will likely ease tensions between Ottawa and Beijing, but big challenges remain for the relationship. Canada with the Asian superpower, say political observers.

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Kovrig and Spavor, two Canadians jailed by China for what many observers believe was retaliation for Meng’s arrest, were released within hours of the Meng deal.

The agreement between Meng and US prosecutors ends a nearly three-year battle that had unfolded in a Vancouver courtroom and had deeply frozen relations between Canada and China.

University of British Columbia political science professor Michael Byers said that even with the deal that frees Meng, the two countries’ relationship will continue to pose a major challenge.

“That doesn’t mean being antagonistic,” Byers said. “It is time for a more serious diplomatic approach.”

Meng, whose father Ren Zhengfei is the founder of telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies, was arrested in Vancouver in December 2018 on a US extradition request.

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On Friday, Meng accepted a four-page statement of fact that said he had made false statements to a major bank, wrongly denying that Huawei controlled a company whose work in Iran violated US sanctions. He did so via a video link appearance in US federal court in New York.

She must meet some conditions if the charges are dropped on December 1, 2022.

At the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver, the federal government withdrew its request for authorization to proceed with Meng’s extradition and ended the conditions of his bail.

Deputy Chief Justice Heather Holmes approved the request and thanked the attorneys on both sides of the case for their “utmost skill and dedication” in the proceedings before thanking Meng, whom she described as “cooperative and courteous throughout the proceedings. “.

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The Huawei executive left court without her anklet and read a statement thanking the judge, Crown attorneys and the Canadian people for their tolerance, while apologizing for the inconvenience.

She says her life has changed radically in the last three years as a mother, wife and company executive, but she believes that every cloud has a silver lining and that she will not forget the goodwill of the people.

Political observers in British Columbia had expected Meng to leave quickly for China from Vancouver, where he has been under house arrest at his Shaughnessy mansion.

Legal proceedings in Vancouver were marked by crowded courtrooms, long lines to gain entry, and occasional protests outside of court.

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Byers said the agreement with the United States is not a surprise, and that it is simply a matter of time.

He believed there were two key factors at play: China realized that the Canadian government was not going to intervene in the case, and that a change in the US administration led by President Joe Biden paved the way for “adult” diplomatic talks with China.

During an earlier court proceeding, when a decision was made that could have freed Meng, a South China Boeing 777 was privately chartered to take her back to China immediately if she had won the decision.

China’s policy analyst and consultant John Gruetzner said the deal could simply be the “calm before the storm” as Canada has a number of serious problems it must address in its relations with China.

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These include, for example, trade policies, commitments against climate change, drug crime and wildlife trade, and corrupt practices abroad, Gruetzner said.

“My general argument is that we have to be more sophisticated,” said Gruetzner, who lived in China for 37 years but now lives in Vancouver.

He noted that Canada’s western allies will look to Ottawa to step up and make its intentions about China clear.

He said, for example, that the United States will want to know what Canada’s intentions are toward China following its recent decision to invest $ 250 billion to boost the United States’ ability to compete with Chinese technology.

Paul Evans, a public policy professor with experience in Asia at UBC, said the deep freeze in relations with China will not happen easily with the release of Meng and the eventual expected release of the two Michaels.

Canadians are angry and there is mistrust in China that is now more widespread. Canada must decide where it should back off, and it is right to do so in some areas – for example, in China’s political crackdown on Hong Kong, Evans said.

But cooperation is needed on other issues such as climate change and pandemics, he said.

“We are recognizing that we have to live with China, even if we are angry, even if we don’t like many aspects of its political or economic system.”

– with files from Derrick Penner and Canadian Press

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