Is Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou a fan of a Disney character with Canadian roots?
Or was she silently and privately poking fun at Xi Jinping before her arrest last year?
Copies of evidence released by British Columbia Supreme Court on Sept. 23 include photographs of Meng’s devices that Canada Border Services Agency officers seized from her last Dec. 1 at Vancouver International Airport when they nabbed her on a United States warrant.
One of them is an iPad Pro, sporting a Winnie-the-Pooh sticker in the upper left corner of the screen.
The world’s most-famous honey-loving bear originated in Canada, a country where Meng has two luxury houses and once held permanent resident status. An orphaned Ontario bear cub, that was named after Winnipeg, became an attraction at the London Zoo and the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s 1926-launched character.
In China, critics adopted Winnie-the-Pooh as a satirical symbol of China’s president after a 2013 photograph of Xi with U.S. president Barack Obama was likened to Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger. Another meme compared Xi to Pooh and Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam to Piglet. As such, censors have taken aim at the Disneyfied version of the Pooh Bear on Chinese social media.
Meng is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of China’s controversial “national champion” technology giant, and supportive officials from the local People’s Republic of China consulate never miss her court appearances. During last December’s bail hearing, her lawyer, David Martin, called her a “social leader and role model in China” and that “she would not embarrass China itself.” So the former scenario is more likely than the latter.
Whatever Meng’s motivation, she was not talking to reporters on Sept. 23, as her lawyers appeared before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes to argue for more evidence disclosure. They are preparing for January hearings where they will make their case to block her extradition to face fraud charges.
Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley says Meng’s lawyers are on a fishing expedition. But Meng’s lawyers say she was arrested under fishy circumstances.
Documents filed by Gibb-Carsley say Meng’s application is “based on speculation and wishful thinking.”
The bid by Meng’s lawyers, Gibb-Carsley submitted, “can only be characterized as a fishing expedition for materials she hopes will reveal the speculative conspiracy she alleges. Courts have repeatedly held that fishing expeditions are not permitted when an applicant seeks disclosure in extradition.”
Meng lawyer Richard Peck told the court that CBSA and RCMP “collaborated and arranged a plan to deal with Ms. Meng in a way that violated the [Nov. 30, 2018 provisional arrest warrant] order of Justice Fleming, that this plan delayed the implementation of Ms. Meng’s rights and afforded the CBSA an opportunity to interrogate her and that such information was arranged to be shared with the RCMP and the FBI.”
Peck said the CBSA compelled her to provide passwords for her electronic devices and it handed those passwords over to the RCMP. He also said the CBSA omitted details in documents, including statutory declarations.
“We refer to this as a covert criminal investigation under the pretext of an admissibility examination for immigration purposes,” Peck alleged.
Peck said that the CBSA and RCMP’s original plan to detain Meng on the plane, Cathay Pacific flight 838 from Hong Kong, “went awry.” The flight arrived 20 minutes earlier than scheduled and officers detained her on the jetway instead before bringing her to the secondary inspection area at the airport. Meng waited in the secondary screening area of the customs department for several hours with her eight pieces of luggage. She was interrogated, arrest and transferred to the cells at the Richmond RCMP detachment. Officers seized her Macbook Air, iPad Pro, iPhone 7 Plus, Huawei Mate 20 RS (Porsche design), Scandisk Cruzer Glide, and two SIM cards.
It was the seventh time in 2018 that Meng had traveled to Vancouver. She was en route to Mexico for business meetings and had planned to visit her house in Dunbar during the layover. Both of her Vancouver properties are in the name of her second husband, investor Liu “Carlos” Xiaozong, who joined her in courtroom 55.
Meng was freed on $10 million bail with curfew and geographic conditions on Dec. 11. She lives in a Shaughnessy mansion with round-the-clock security guards ordered by a judge, but paid by her.
Meng arrived at the Law Courts on Sept. 23 wearing glittering high-heeled shoes and a purple dress under a rust-coloured jacket, with her hair tied back. She did nothing to hide the GPS monitor that she must wear on her ankle as part of her bail conditions. The device ensures she remains within City of Vancouver, the North Shore and parts of Richmond, away from the airport, and that she adheres to an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
Meng’s Dec. 1 arrest sparked a diplomatic row between Canada and China, which retaliated by arresting diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor. The two Michaels are cut-off from their families and lawyers. They are only allowed a monthly visit from a Canadian embassy official, but can’t enjoy sunlight in daytime or turn off lights at night.
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