Canadian MPs join campaign to release Meng Wanzhou, citing Sinophobia and plunging relations with China

Ian Young
·4-min read

Two Canadian MPs are taking part in a campaign to release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou that cites “deteriorating relations with China and the rise of Sinophobia in Canada”.

The New Democratic Party’s Niki Ashton and the Green Party’s Paul Manly are both listed as speakers at the “Zoom to Free Meng Wanzhou” online panel discussion on Tuesday evening.

Manly’s participation is in line with the policy of the Greens, who have three MPs and in July called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government to ask the US to drop its charges against Meng and its request to have her extradited.

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But the participation of Ashton – a former leadership contender in the NDP, which has 24 MPs and holds the balance of power in parliament – does not reflect an official position of her party.

Canadian MP Niki Ashton of the NDP is supporting a campaign to free Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Photo: AP
Canadian MP Niki Ashton of the NDP is supporting a campaign to free Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Photo: AP

Last week, the NDP joined with the opposition Conservatives to pass a motion calling on the Liberal government to combat Chinese aggression and decide whether to ban tech giant Huawei from building Canada’s 5G internet networks. Ashton was one of three NDP MPs who abstained.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018 on a US fraud warrant. She is currently fighting the US extradition request in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Ashton’s support gives the appearance of injustice done by Canada towards Ms Meng and provides the CCP with ammunition in its propaganda against Canada

NDP member Meena Wong

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said in late 2018 that the party would follow the “rule of law” in Meng’s case, rejecting calls within his party to have her freed.

Prominent Vancouver NDP member Meena Wong, a former federal candidate who also ran for the mayoralty of the city in 2014, said she was “astonished and disappointed” by Ashton’s role in the Free Meng campaign.

Wong, who said she had supported Ashton’s 2017 bid for the party leadership, said the Free Meng campaign “plays into the hands of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]”.

NDP member Meena Wong says she was “astonished and disappointed” by MP Nikki Ashton’s role in the Free Meng campaign. Photo: Ian Young
NDP member Meena Wong says she was “astonished and disappointed” by MP Nikki Ashton’s role in the Free Meng campaign. Photo: Ian Young

“As an MP representing her constituents and Canada’s stand on human rights, she should know better, to allow the court to make the judgment according to Canadian law,” said Wong.

“Canada is not breaking the law. It’s Ms Meng who is being charged on allegations of breaking the law.”

Beijing-born Wong is a frequent critic of China’s policy towards Hong Kong and other issues.

“Ashton’s support gives the appearance of injustice done by Canada towards Ms Meng and provides the CCP with ammunition in its propaganda against Canada across the world,” said Wong. “In China, behaviour such as [Ashton’s] could land her in prison for subversion.

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Wong said she had asked other Chinese Canadian NDP members to reach out to Ashton and Singh about the issue.

On September 29, Ashton sponsored a parliamentary petition calling on the government to cease Meng’s extradition proceedings and free her immediately, and to “protect Canadian jobs by permitting Huawei Canada to participate in the Canadian deployment of a 5G internet network”.

“Meng’s arrest caused a major deterioration in Canada-China relations with serious negative consequences for many Canadians, while providing no benefit for Canada and instead contributing to a new cold war with China,” says the petition, which has received 631 signatures so far.

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, leaves her home to attend a hearing in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver last week. Photo: Bloomberg
Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, leaves her home to attend a hearing in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver last week. Photo: Bloomberg

Ashton, who is MP for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski in Manitoba and is the NDP’s transport critic, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Meng’s case.

The Free Meng campaign is organised by left-leaning groups including World Beyond War, the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute.

They are also planning a “cross-Canada day of action to free Meng Wanzhou” on December 1, the second anniversary of her arrest.

Meng’s arrest has infuriated China and sent relations with Canada plummeting. Beijing subsequently arrested two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and charged them with espionage. However, their treatment is widely seen in Canada as hostage-taking.

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Last week, Trudeau said he had no regrets about Meng’s arrest.

“Do I regret that Canada followed its laws? Do I regret that Canada lived up to a long-standing extradition treaty with our closest ally? Absolutely not,” Trudeau told reporters on Thursday. He branded China’s actions “coercive diplomacy”.

Trudeau is facing pressure from prominent figures in his own Liberal party to let Meng go free, including former prime minister Jean Chretien.

Meng’s extradition hearings are scheduled to last well into 2021, but appeals could drag out the process much longer.

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