U.S. Reaches Agreement to Release Huawei Executive in Case That Strained Ties With China

The case suggested that the Biden administration and the government of President Xi Jinping could come to some kind of accommodations in a dispute that included allegations of hostage-taking on both sides.




By David E. Sanger, Dan Bilefsky and Katie Benner

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department reached an agreement on Friday clearing the way for a senior executive of Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecommunications giant, to return to China after admitting some wrongdoing in a sanctions violation case, removing one major irritant between the two superpowers.

The resolution of the criminal charges against the executive, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, came in the midst of a downward spiral in military, technological and trade competition between Washington and Beijing.

In China, Ms. Meng is considered a member of the new Chinese royalty — technology executives who have used their power to expand China’s influence across the globe. In Washington, she became a symbol of the Cold War-like atmosphere in relations between Beijing and Washington.

The end of the three-year-old case suggested that the Biden administration and the government of President Xi Jinping could come to some kind of accommodation in a major dispute that included allegations of hostage-taking on both sides. Yet it came on a day that President Biden was meeting for the first time at the White House with the leaders of three Indo-Pacific democracies — Australia, Japan and India — in another of his efforts to build loose alliances that can counter China’s growing influence.

Ms. Meng spent the past nearly three years out on bail of about $8 million at her two luxurious homes in Vancouver, detained by Canadian authorities as the United States sought her extradition in a fraud case related to Huawei’s sale of telecommunications equipment to Iran. The transaction appeared intended to avoid U.S.-led sanctions on Tehran. Yet the case seemed to be about so much else: The U.S. effort to block Huawei’s, and China’s, domination of 5G communication networks, and lingering resentments over Huawei having initially stolen much of its technology from a major American competitor.

The agreement, laid out in a court appearance in Brooklyn, left unanswered one major question: the fate of two Canadians who have been held by China since shortly after Ms. Meng was detained, and who appeared to be held as hostages to the resolution of Ms. Meng’s case.

While there is an expectation that they may now be released, no side agreement was explicitly included in the dropping of the charges.

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