As Canada moves forward with the extradition of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the Chinese government is questioning the country’s commitment to the rule of law.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously cited the rule of law as the reason he’s unable to interfere in Meng's case, saying that the government “respects the independence” of the judicial process.
But following Jody Wilson-Raybould’s stunning testimony Wednesday alleging that high-level government officials pressured the then-attorney general to intervene in the case of SNC-Lavalin, the Chinese government is using the case to underscore its criticisms.
Chinese Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang was questioned about the SNC-Lavalin case by a state media journalist in Beijing and asked whether it was contradictory for Trudeau to say that his government couldn’t step in for Meng.
Kang said he liked the journalist’s question and said Canadians are paying attention to the issue.
“Now, in fact, not only Chinese and Canadian citizens, but the whole world is extremely interested to hear how the Canadian government answers this," Kang said.
Chinese authorities have previously called on Canada to release Meng, who they say is being held as a political bargaining chip in America’s trade war with China.
It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, who said they’re “utterly dissatisfied” with the government’s decision to proceed with the extradition.
“This is not a merely judicial case, but a political persecution against a Chinese high-tech enterprise,” the embassy said in a statement.
“The so-called ‘rule of law’ and ‘judicial independence’ asserted by Canada can not cover up the mistakes made by the Canadian side on the case of Meng Wanzhou.”
Trudeau has denied allegations that his office improperly pressured Raybould to act. But Lynette Ong, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto focusing on China, says the damage is already done.
“The Chinese authorities see Canada as applying a double standard,” Ong told CTV News. “I think the Trudeau government has lost quite a bit of legitimacy.”
Meng was arrested in Vancouver in December at the request of U.S. authorities, who later charged both her and Huawei with fraud over alleged efforts to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The arrest is believed to have prompted the detention of several Canadians in China. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor remain in China with limited consular visits.
Experts say the latest development is unlikely to help the government’s chances of freeing them.
“It’s quid pro quo, that’s basically what China is saying,” said extradition expert Gary Botting. “We have your guys and you have ours. Release her and we’ll release them – it’s that simple.”
Meng is scheduled to appear in court next week, beginning the possibly months-long process of deciding whether she will be sent to the U.S. for trial.
“The final result of the Canadian court to handle this case will be a touchstone for testing whether Canada adheres to the judicial independence or not,” the Chinese embassy said. “We will wait and see.”
With a report from CTV's Annie Bergeron-Oliver