US reaches deferred prosecution agreement with Chinese Huawei executive

Meng Wanzhou is the CFO of Huawei, the Chinese tech giant. She has been in Canadian custody since late 2018 when she was arrested at the airport for possible extradition to the United States where she would face charges for violating US sanctions. Today, the Justice Department announced a deferred prosecution agreement had been reached that will free Meng and allow her to return to China.

Ms. Meng, who has been detained in Canada since 2018, has agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement that is expected to be entered in federal court in Brooklyn on Friday afternoon. She will ad­mit to some wrong­do­ing, and federal prosecutors will defer and then ultimately drop the charges against her, the person said. ­As part of the agreement, she will not enter a guilty plea.

The case has become a symbol of the tumultuous relationship between two global superpowers, the United States and China, which is at its lowest level in decades. And it has created a diplomatic challenge that has put Canada in the middle…

Throughout her extradition hearing in Canada, Ms. Meng’s defense team professed her innocence. They argued that President Donald J. Trump had politicized her case and that her rights had been breached when she was arrested in Vancouver.

Meng’s whole defense was nonsense and got really conspiratorial after a judge ruled against her (meaning toward extraditing her to the US) last May. So it sounds like the US has agreed to some face-saving nonsense knowing the US will never get another bit at this particular apple.

Unfortunately it probably also means that China’s “hostage diplomacy” worked. As you may recall, shortly after Meng’s arrest, China arrested two Canadian businessmen–the two Michaels— and charged them with identical sets of charges to what Meng was facing in the US if she were extradited by Canada. It wasn’t very subtle. In fact it was brutal.

While Meng was living like a princess, getting private painting lessons and massages in a large mansion and going out for private shopping sprees at stores that were closed for her convenience, the two Michaels were held in separate prisons with only occasional access to Canadian diplomats. Back in January, the NY Times reported that Michael Korvig had been so isolated that he was completely unaware of the global pandemic until last October when his wife told him about it over zoom. Meanwhile, Micahel Spavor was tried by a kangaroo court and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

It’s not clear yet whether part of this deal for Meng’s freedom is that the two Michaels will also be released. My guess is that this is going to operate a lot like the transfer of millions in cash to Iran during the Obama administration. That transfer was coincidentally timed to the release of several American hostages. The Obama administration denied we were ransoming our hostages but that’s effectively how the Iranians saw it. The money didn’t arrive until the hostages had left the ground.

Assuming something similar happens here, I’m glad for the two Michaels who never deserved to be arrested in the first place. But I do worry where this leads. There’s a reason the US has a policy against negotiating with terrorists. Once the CCP, Iran, etc. know that taking hostages works, they are more likely to do it again the next time they want something. It seems like a bad precedent even if it’s a good outcome for these two individuals.