Could a case be made that Meng Wanzhou violated her bail conditions by disobeying the British Columbia government’s COVID-19 prevention measures?
When the wanted-in-the-U.S. daughter of Huawei’s founder was freed Dec. 11, 2018 on $10 million bail, Meng agreed to respect the law at all times while under round-the-clock surveillance and an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in Vancouver.
On Jan. 12, she went before the same judge, B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke, asking for the surveillance requirement to be relaxed. She no longer wants security guards from Lions Gate Risk Management to shadow her when she is not under curfew.
Her husband Liu Xiaozong testified that the security entourage attracts too much attention when they are out in public, often attracting people who want to take photos of his famous wife. He said that makes their 12 and 18-year-old children feel uneasy, so they avoid being with their parents.
Much of the day in courtroom 55, however, was spent considering Liu’s fear that someone from Lions Gate would transmit the virus to them.
Canadian government lawyer John Gibb-Carsley, acting on behalf of the U.S., carefully poked holes in that argument. Under cross-examination, Liu admitted he did not follow all public health directives when he returned to Canada in October from Hong Kong.
Liu had claimed to be concerned about the risk of Meng catching the virus, because she had suffered thyroid cancer seven years ago. Gibb-Carsley noted that Liu flew on a commercial airline with other passengers from Hong Kong to Vancouver. Liu said he quarantined for two weeks before traveling and wore a mask on the flight, except when he drank. Gibb-Carsley contended that was not good enough.
“I talk to Sabrina if I could quarantine in the hotel, but she prefer me to stay home and quarantine together with me,” Liu told the court, referring to his wife by her English name.
Said Gibb-Carsley: “If you truly had a concern that your wife was at a higher risk of COVID-19, you wouldn’t have arrived and quarantined with her from international travel.”
“I’m not agree,” Liu said.
Liu admitted going with Meng to private group meals at a restaurant in Richmond and private downtown shopping trips with Meng at a time when non-essential travel outside home is discouraged.
Lions Gate president Doug Maynard defended his company’s pandemic safety work plan, use of personal protective equipment and sanitizing the vehicles used to chauffeur Meng around the city. But Maynard conceded there had been moments of frustration with his famous client and her entourage.
“We have had to have conversations with Ms. Meng and her staff when we’ve made some observations or there have been occurrences where the occasion appears to have not adhered to those guidelines,” Maynard said.
Maynard said Meng has sometimes mixed her household bubble with support staff and legal advisors. He described an occasion at an unnamed location in Vancouver in December when the nine or 10 attendees took food from a common platter on a table and shared sips from the same cup of coffee.
“I would consider that not very good practices when you’re trying to consider the spread of COVID,” said Maynard, who chose his words carefully.
Liu said the owner of the establishment introduced Meng to a special kind of coffee beans and she made a cup of coffee herself.
“The coffee smelled like stinky Chinese tofu and smelled very strong, so I didn’t drink it,” he testified.
Maynard said Lions Gate is paid through the Gowlings law firm, though Meng is ultimately responsible. He called it a “tricky situation.”
“My duty is to the court. The only point of conflict is discussion around the numbers of resources that we believe it takes to perform that function the way the court expects it to be done, compared to what other representatives under Ms. Meng feel is reasonable,” he said.
The court heard there had been only a few minor security incidents.
Maynard said someone in a hotel gym wanted to take a photo of Meng, so Lions Gate conferred with hotel security staff who removed the shutterbug.
Liu complained that Lions Gate was quick to point out when Meng was on her back porch after the start of her 11 p.m. curfew late last October. He said the couple was trying to fix an outdoor heating device and thought Lions Gate overreacted.
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