T he Biden administration claimed on Monday there was “no link” between the Justice Department agreeing to drop its charges against a Huawei executive held in Canada and China releasing two Canadians that it had taken hostage shortly after her arrest.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked if the U.S. decision would incentivize China to engage in further hostage diplomacy, and Psaki attempted to reject this.
“I think it’s important to note, that to be very clear about this, there is no link,” Psaki contended. “We have an independent Justice Department. We can’t determine how the Chinese or others manage their business over there. It’s a little bit different. But we have an independent Justice Department that made independent decisions, law enforcement decisions. At the same time, we have made no secret about our push to have the two Michaels released. That’s certainly positive news and good news.”
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, walked free in Canada and quickly returned to China after the Biden DOJ agreed to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with her and acquiesced to ending the U.S.’s extradition request to Canada, where she was being held. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested by Canadian authorities in December 2018 at the request of the U.S., indicted in the Eastern District of New York in January 2019, and charged with bank fraud and wire fraud related to helping Huawei dodge sanctions against Iran, but she was let go after admitting to some wrongdoing.
Psaki was pressed on whether the “prisoner swap” between China and Canada would encourage the Chinese government to seize hostages as leverage in the future, and she countered: “We have not referred to it in those terms. We have referred to it as one, an action by the Department of Justice, which is an independent Department of Justice. This is a law enforcement matter as it relates to specifically the Huawei official who was released."
HUAWEI EXEC HELD IN CANADA WALKS FREE
Shortly after Meng’s arrest in 2018, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, dubbed "the two Michaels," were arrested, being secretly tried and convicted in China in March. Just hours after Meng's release was announced, news broke they were released and on their way home to Canada.
A number of Senate Republicans condemned the Biden administration's action toward Huawei.
Sen. Jim Risch, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. must “acknowledge the resolution of this hostage situation is a victory for one of the world’s most brutal and cruel regimes.” He said: “The Chinese Communist Party will be emboldened to use other foreign citizens as bargaining chips, because it now knows hostage-taking is a successful way to get what it wants."
Sen. Tom Cotton condemned the DOJ’s move, tweeting, “The administration is surrendering to China’s hostage diplomacy.”
Psaki was asked about the criticism from Republicans.
“It may feel foreign to them, but the Department of Justice is independent, but it is independent under this administration. And this is a legal matter, it was an announcement made by the Department of Justice, and it’s inappropriate for me to weigh in on that further,” Psaki said.
She added: “Our policy has not changed, our policy toward China. We are not seeking conflict. It is a relationship of competition, and we’re going to continue to hold the PRC to account for its unfair economic practices, its coercive actions around the world, and its human rights abuses, and we will continue to do that in partnership with our allies around the world. … So, there is absolutely zero impact. No one should read it as an impact on our substantive policy. This is a legal matter and a legal decision.”
The Chinese Communist Party had repeatedly been accused of engaging in hostage diplomacy , and the U.S., Canada, and numerous other nations had condemned China for the “arbitrary detention” of the two Michaels.
Psaki spoke about Biden’s September call with Chinese President Xi Jinping and denied Biden had attempted to negotiate with Xi on this issue.
“He raised the two individuals, the two Michaels who have been released, very positive news,” Psaki said of Biden. “It should not come as a surprise that President Xi raised the Huawei official, but again, there was no negotiation on this call. These two leaders raised the cases of these individuals, but there was no negotiation about it.”
A reporter asked if Biden knew about the status of discussions about Meng and the two Michaels when he spoke with Xi, and Psaki said, “I’m not trying to be cute with you. I don’t have any more detail for you.”
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U.S. intelligence agencies believe Huawei and other Chinese companies are working hand-in-hand with the Chinese Communist Party, potentially giving China 's surveillance state access to hardware and networks across the world.
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