Australia Canada's 'two Michaels' released on bail for 'medical reasons', Chinese state media says, after return of Meng Wanzhou

00:25  28 september  2021
00:25  28 september  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

Meng Wanzhou: Huawei's 'princess' on the rebound

  Meng Wanzhou: Huawei's 'princess' on the rebound As the daughter of the founder of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou was known internally as the "princess" of the company and its possible future leader, but for nearly three years, she's been stuck in Canada fighting extradition to the United States. Meng was arrested in Vancouver in December 2018 at the request of the United States, which had sought her extradition over allegations that she had defrauded HSBC Bank and other banks byNow, after reaching a "deferred prosecution" deal with the US Department of Justice, the 49-year-old chief financial officer may be able to reclaim her throne.

Over the weekend, Chinese state media was awash with the news of the return of the "Huawei princess", Meng Wanzhou.

But for more than a day, the Chinese press remained silent on a key detail of the story — the release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The "two Michaels", as they became known, touched down in Canada on Saturday after Huawei's chief financial officer, Ms Meng, was released.

It has been widely described as a prisoner swap and as a blatant example of "hostage diplomacy".

Ms Meng was arrested on fraud charges connected to the company's alleged attempts to bypass US sanctions against Iran.

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But from China's point of view, it was Ms Meng who was the hostage.

Chinese media breaks its silence on the two Michaels

In an article posted late Sunday night — about 36 hours after the news broke of the Canadians' release — the jingoistic tabloid Global Times ran an "exclusive" quoting an unnamed "source close to the matter".

The article claimed the two Michaels had "confessed their guilt" and were "released on bail for medical reasons".

That is despite one of them, Mr Spavor, being sentenced to 11 years in prison for spying and supplying state secrets to foreign nations in a Chinese court.

Mr Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat who became an analyst at the International Crisis Group, was tried in secret in March and was awaiting a verdict.

Canada has released the financial director of Huawei, assigned to residence since 2018

 Canada has released the financial director of Huawei, assigned to residence since 2018 © Don Mackinnon The financial director of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, is aimed at the media at the Supreme Court of British Columbia after his hearing. Extradition ended in his favor, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, September 24, 2021. AFP / Don Mackinnon This is an exchange of prisoners who do not say his name. This Friday, Meng Wanzhou , was able to fly to China. The financial director of Huawei was resigned at Vancouver since 2018, suspected of banking fraud.

Another outlet, Guancha Syndicate — one of the most popular nationalistic online media portals in China — also published a WeChat article about the two Michaels late Sunday night, which was read more than 100,000 times in fewer than 24 hours.

It tells a similar story to the Global Times – that the "two Canadian defendants confessed to the crime and wrote down their own confessions of guilt".

The Global Times article mentioned Ms Meng was released on the same day as the two men, but denied the implication of "hostage diplomacy".

It maintained Ms Meng's case was "entirely different from the cases of the two Canadians in nature", quoting an analyst who said the Huawei executive's situation was a politically motivated one "cooked up" by the US and Canada.

The case against the Michaels, the article claimed, was based on evidence and their release was in line with Chinese law.

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Further, it said a tweet from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service welcoming the Michaels home proved their alleged spying activities were "not made up by China".

"Ironically, as soon as the two Canadians touched down in Canada, the Canadian intelligence eagerly welcomed them, which proved their identities and activities of spies are not made up by China," the Global Times article read.

One detail overlooked in China's coverage of Ms Meng's release is a statement from the United States Department of Justice, which said she had admitted to wrongdoing.

National pride for Ms Meng's return to 'motherland'

Yun Jiang, producer of the China Neican newsletter at the Australian National University, said the focus for Chinese media was Ms Meng, and the press was telling what's termed a "positive energy" story about her release.

"They have a narrative ready," she said.

"According to the Chinese government, she was unfairly imprisoned and she only was released because of the pressure from the Chinese government.

"She's rich, she's famous, and that's why the Chinese government has gone out of the way for her."

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  Huawei executive reaches plea deal in US court: report The chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is expected to enter a plea deal in New York court Friday to resolve US charges that saw her detained in Canada for nearly three years, US media reported Friday. The Wall Street Journal said Meng Wanzhou would plead guilty to minor charges while the main allegations of fraud, related to alleged sales to Iran by a Huawei affiliate, would be dropped. The deal would allow Meng to return to China without facing US jail time, the Journal said.

Ms Meng's return to China was broadcast live, with a state-run CCTV anchor saying it attracted almost 430 million views.

"This number far exceeds the total population of the United States and Canada. This is the power of 1.4 billion Chinese people," she said.

Ms Jiang said there's a sense of nationalism in the coverage, and the narrative that Chinese government efforts have righted a wrong.

That was also evident from foreign officials, including Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

"It has long been a fully proven fact that this is an incident of political persecution against a Chinese citizen, an act designed to hobble Chinese high-tech companies," she said.

"The so-called 'fraud' charges against Ms Meng Wanzhou are purely fabricated."

China's ambassador to the UK also tweeted about Ms Meng's return, omitting any mention of the two Michaels, but highlighting that China was willing to do "whatever it takes".

"She's been seen depicted as a hero and as a win for the Chinese government in its negotiation tactics with the US and Canada," Dr Jennifer Hsu, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute, said.

In contrast, just the bare minimum had been published about the two Michaels — anything more than that might imply to China's domestic audience that the two cases were inextricably linked, she said.

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Censorship was also a factor, she said, with the one-party state having a huge infrastructure and investment in wiping details on "harmful" topics.

"Any other chatter that goes on around [the two Michaels] has been scrubbed, or will be scrubbed, if they come to the surface on the internet or social media platforms," she said.

Ms Jiang pointed out censorship is not just about removing content.

"It's also guiding content as well. Sometimes they don't just remove things, but they emphasise certain aspects of a story, and that's part of their guidance and propaganda," she said.

What about the two detained Australians?

The high-profile release of the two Canadians has brought back into focus the cases of two Australians who remain detained in China.

Writer Yang Hengjun, who was once employed at China's Ministry of State Security, has been detained since January 2019 and charged with espionage, while state media China Global Television Network anchor Cheng Lei has been held since August 2020.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has previously described Dr Yang's case as one of "arbitrary detention" and has raised concerns about the "lack of transparency" behind Ms Cheng's arrest.

But while there appears to have been an exchange of Ms Meng for the Michaels, Australia does not have that option.

The Michaels were arrested "purely to act as hostages" — to swap with Ms Meng — whereas the two Australians were not, Ms Jiang said.

"Their cases [are] a bit more complicated … we don't really know what China wants," she said.

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"It's harder to really know what Australia can do to get them back."

Dr Hsu pointed out the two Australians have Chinese heritage, and that can factor into how the state treats their cases.

"China does have bargaining chips with regards to bilateral relations. The two detained Australians are probably pawns in the political games that take place at the Canberra-Beijing level," Dr Hsu said.

But an ongoing diplomatic freeze — where Australian ministers have been unable to get their counterparts on the phone — could further complicate matters.

As could the recent AUKUS announcement, which has largely been viewed as a response to China in the region and to which Chinese officials took great offence, she said.

"It's hard to fathom what Australia might be able to bring to the table," she said.

"Because there hasn't been high-level dialogue between the two countries, we simply cannot or don't know what might trigger their release."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the ABC it remains concerned about the ongoing detention of the two Australians.

"We expect basic standards of transparency, justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be afforded to Dr Yang and Ms Cheng, in accordance with international norms and China’s legal obligations," DFAT said in a statement.

"Australia will continue working with international partners to counter the practice of arbitrary detention and end its use as a coercive tool.

"We will continue to advocate for and provide the highest level of consular assistance to all Australians detained overseas, including in China."

DFAT said it would advocate for their rights "at the most senior levels", but would not comment in further detail due to privacy obligations.

Americans blocked from leaving China return to US .
Cynthia and Victor Liu, whose father is Chinese fugitive Liu Changming, were prevented from leaving China for 3 years.Cynthia and Victor Liu were not allowed to leave China because of an “exit ban” – despite facing no criminal allegations themselves.

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This is interesting!