SEPTEMBER 26, 2021
China gave a hero’s welcome to Huawei Technologies Co.’s executive Meng Wanzhou as she touched down three years after her arrest in Canada, while two Canadians freed by Beijing returned to their homeland with less fanfare.
“I am finally home after over 1,000 days of suffering,” Meng, in a red dress, said tearfully to the cheering crowd after landing at Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport around 10 p.m. local time on Saturday.
The event, broadcast live by state media, dominated nine out of the top ten trending hashtags on the Chinese social media site Weibo. The tallest building in the city lit up with scrolling slogan “Welcome Home, Meng Wanzhou” across its facade.
In contrast, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig arrived to a more low-key reception. The pair landed in Calgary before sunrise on Saturday, accompanied by Dominic Barton, Canada’s ambassador to China.
Dressed in blazers and face-masks, they were met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who hugged the pair on the tarmac. Government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and the nation’s spy agency, tweeted welcome messages to the pair, who were expected to reunite with their families in private.
“There is going to be time for reflections and analysis in the coming days and weeks,” Trudeau told reporters late Friday after announcing China had released the men.
The two Canadians applied to courts for bail on medical reasons, which was granted, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported. Xinhua didn’t say what health conditions the pair had.
The daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, Meng boarded an Air China plane on Friday to return to Shenzhen, where Huawei is based, after reaching a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. authorities to resolve criminal charges against her.
She’d been under house arrest in Vancouver for almost three years as she battled extradition to the U.S. on fraud charges. Meng spent her time in confinement at her Vancouver mansion, and could venture out at times, wearing a GPS anklet, to shop at high-end boutiques with private security in tow.
She thanked the support from the Chinese government and people, and said she was touched by President Xi Jinping’s concern for her case.
After her speech, Meng sang along as the crowd burst into a patriotic Chinese song called “Ode to the Motherland.” She then boarded a bus headed for quarantine.
“Facts have long proved that this is a political persecution against a Chinese citizen with the aim to oppress China’s high-tech companies,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement. “The ‘fraud’ accusations against Ms. Meng are nothing but fabrication.”
Triumph for the People
An opinion piece published by the official People’s Daily calls Meng’s return a triumph for the Chinese people. The article, “No Force Will Prevent China’s Progress,” says the peaceful return of Meng shows the lasting strength of China’s Communist Party and the country’s 1.4 billion people.
In a post on her WeChat account reported by state media, Meng called China her backbone and said her freedom was thanks to a powerful home nation. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also wrote “Welcome Home” in a Weibo post.
As part of the deal that led to Meng’s release, China set free Kovrig and Spavor, who were detained within days of Meng’s December 2018 arrest. The release of the two Canadians wasn’t widely reported by Chinese state media.
China had repeatedly linked the cases of the two Michaels, as they are known in Canada, to Meng’s, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying last year that halting her extradition “could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians.”
Kovrig is a former diplomat who works for the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank. Spavor is a founding member of Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organization that facilitates ties with North Korea.