Still, if she tires of the seven-bedroom, $12 million house where she now lives, her ankle monitor enables her to travel within 100 square miles of her home, as long as she’s back by her 11 p.m. curfew.
The two Canadian men detained in China just nine days after Meng’s arrest, in an act widely seen as retaliation, do not enjoy such a leisurely existence. Tuesday marked a year since their detention.
For the first six months, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business executive Michael Spavor were held in solitary confinement with the lights on 24 hours a day, a move classified as a form of torture. They have endured hours of interrogation, according to people familiar with their situations.
After they were accused in May of stealing state secrets, both were moved to prisons, where they pass their days in cramped cells. Neither is allowed outside to exercise or see the sun. Neither has seen a lawyer or their family members.
The investigative process in the two cases “has been completed, and they have been transferred to procuratorial authorities for investigation and prosecution,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday.
“China’s judicial authorities handle cases in strict accordance with law and protect the two Canadian citizens’ lawful rights,” she said.
Meng was serving as Huawei’s chief financial officer when she was detained while changing planes at Vancouver airport on Dec. 1, 2018. The United States had an extradition request out for her, wanting her to answer charges of breaching American sanctions against Iran.
Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, so is corporate royalty in China and is often referred to here as a princess, in a good way. Some analysts have described her arrest as if China had detained Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter.
Nine days after Meng was arrested, Kovrig, who had served as a Canadian diplomat in China but then became a Hong Kong-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, was picked up in Beijing.
The same day, in Dandong on the border with North Korea, Spavor was also detained. The Calgary, Alberta, native had been running Paektu Exchanges, promoting business and sporting links with North Korea. He arranged one of NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trips to North Korea and had met its leader, Kim Jong Un, on several occasions.
Few people outside China think that their case is anything other than political.
“Let’s look at his citizenship; let’s look at the fact that he was arrested, along with the other Michael, nine days after Ms. Meng’s detention on extradition charges,” said Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group. “It doesn’t take anyone with a high degree in political science to understand why Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested when they were. There’s no other possible explanation other than that this was a retaliatory move for Canada’s response to the American extradition request.”
The men are being held in “deplorable” conditions, he said.
Spavor’s friends and family members again called for his release.
“He will soon spend his second Christmas behind bars, without his family, and without access to lawyers,” they wrote.
“Michael is an earnest, genuine, and impossibly fun person, who we believe has been detained in error. He deserves better, as does fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig,” they wrote in a post. “We call on all sides to work toward a quick and positive resolution that results in their release.”
Kovrig is accused of “covertly gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign forces,” and Spavor of being Kovrig’s “main intelligence contact” and providing intelligence to him. Neither has been charged formally.
They both receive monthly consular visits lasting about 20 minutes, during which time Canadian diplomats are allowed to ask only about their health and condition, not about any details related to the charges against them, according to people briefed on the visits.
Canada has repeatedly called for their release, saying they have been arbitrarily detained.
“These two Canadians are and will remain our absolute priority,” Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement marking the anniversary of their detention. “We will continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release and to stand up for them as a government and as Canadians.”
But Meng’s father dismissed any suggestion that their case was related to that of his daughter.
“I know no specifics at all about this whole matter, therefore I think I’m not in a position to answer this question,” Ren said in an interview Tuesday in a grandiose hall lined with Greek statues and paintings of Napoleon at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen.
“You may know it better than I do. You know the names of the two individuals, while I don’t know the names of the two Canadians,” Ren said, an unlikely claim since he has previously offered to advocate for the Canadians’ release if his daughter was freed.
When a reporter repeated their names Tuesday, he brushed it off.
“I know nothing about them, because it has nothing to do with our business,” Ren said. “I’m only a businessman, so I do not have the capacity to look at social issues, so I do not have the specifics at all about this matter.”
Asked if he thought it was a coincidence that the two Canadians, having lived and worked in China for years, were detained just nine days after his daughter was arrested in Canada, Ren said he did.
Meng is to appear in court again next month, when a judge is set to rule on whether she can be extradited to the United States. Either way, an appeal is expected and the case could drag on for years.
Many analysts and lawyers see direct parallels to the case of Kevin and Julia Garratt, Canadian aid workers living in China who were arrested shortly after a Chinese citizen, Su Bin, was arrested in Canada in relation to a hacking case in the United States. They were released a few months after Su decided to face the charges in the United States.
Meng has sought to generate public sympathy in China for her predicament. On the anniversary of her arrest, she released an open letter in Chinese and English under the title “Your warmth is a beacon that lights my way forward.”
“Right now, time seems to pass slowly,” she wrote in the letter, released Dec. 1. “It is so slow that I have enough time to read a book from cover to cover. I can take the time to discuss minutiae with my colleagues or to carefully complete an oil painting.”
Meng’s mother, husband and daughter have all been to Vancouver to see her, but Ren said that he had only spoken with her on the phone. Asked if he, too, was afraid of being arrested, he said “there is no reason for the U.S. to arrest me.”
Pressed on why he hadn’t been to Vancouver then, he said: “That would need Trump's approval.”
“There’s no need for me to be physically there to see my daughter,” he said. “I think making a phone call is the same as seeing her in person.”