What we (don’t) know about the arrest of Meng Wanzhou

I’ve landed in Vancouver ahead of Meng Wanzhou’s bail hearing here on Friday. At the very least, it should provide some clarity in what threatens to turn into a huge diplomatic row.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • Huawei has said Meng was arrested while getting a connecting flight in Vancouver on Saturday. The company has called it “unreasonable” and anti-competitive.
  • Around the same time of Meng’s arrest, President Trump, US National Security Advisor Bolton, and Chinese President Xi were meeting in Buenos Aires. But, the White House said neither Trump nor Bolton knew in advance about the arrest.
  • One person who did know, however, was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He said on Thursday that the arrest was not politically motivated.
  • Via its Canadian embassy, China have demanded Meng’s immediate release calling the whole ordeal a breach of her human rights.

Here are the biggest gaps:

  • It hasn’t yet been confirmed what the charges against Meng actually are. According to Reuters, US investigators believe they have evidence that Huawei engaged in illicit transactions with Iran, and used its accounts with HSBC Holdings to do it (HSBC is not part of the investigation).
  • We don’t know whether the US has formally requested Meng’s extradition. IF it has, it will be up to Canada’s Justice Minsiter to grant it (or not).

Some speculation on my part:

  • If the US wants to extradite and prosecute, it seems very unlikely Meng will be granted bail. She would almost head straight to the embassy and from there it’s unlikely prosectuors would ever get her back. That said, at this stage its still very much Canada’s call.
  • Senior figures in the Trump administration knew about the arrest – it’s just a question of how senior. Reuters quoted an international criminal defense lawyer as saying it would have needed high-level approval “given the circumstances that she is a Chinese citizen whose father has significant authority in the state”.
  • On a public relations side of things, Huawei has been relatively quiet, but I expect to hear a line pushed about how the US is trying to trample a major competitor to its own technology giants – Huawei is now the second biggest smartphone maker in the world, ahead of Apple (and behind Samsung).
  • While the relationship is undoubtedly being strained by this case, I doubt we’ll see it impede the progress made in trade talks between Trump and Xi this week. At least, not at first: the (tentative) agreement has come as a relief to both countires and I doubt either wants to throw it out on account of this just yet.

The hearing starts at 10am PT (1pm ET, 6pm GMT).

Update: what was I just saying? Here’s Chinese state media on the arrests.

China Daily Op-Ed:

“the US is trying to do whatever it can to contain Huawei’s expansion in the world simply because the company is the point man for China’s competitive technology companies.”

Global Post:

Obviously Washington is resorting to a despicable rogue’s approach as it cannot stop Huawei’s 5G advance in the market