The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Time to read and paint: Detained Huawei executive pens poetic letter from house arrest

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., leaves her home wearing an electronic ankle tag for a court appearance in Vancouver in October. (Jennifer Gauthier/Bloomberg News)
Placeholder while article actions load

It’s been a trying year under house arrest, Meng Wanzhou says — but it hasn’t been without its rewards.

The chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei marked the first anniversary of her detention in Canada with an unusually poetic open letter describing “moments of fear, pain, disappointment, helplessness, torment, and struggle,” but also time for reading, oil painting — and gratitude.

“Your warmth is a beacon that lights my way forward,” is how she heads the message, published on a Huawei corporate site.

Meng, 47, the daughter of billionaire Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in a Vancouver airport last December at the behest of U.S. authorities, touching off a complex standoff that has left Ottawa caught in the middle between Washington and Beijing.

The U.S. Justice Department is seeking Meng’s extradition on fraud charges. Under the conditions of her $7.5 million bail, Meng can move around Vancouver, but must be monitored by a security detail and wear an ankle monitor.

Canada arrested Huawei’s Meng for the United States. As China retaliates, it’s on its own.

In May, the Supreme Court of British Columbia allowed her to move to her $12 million mansion in the tony Shaughnessy neighborhood after her lawyers argued that it offered better security than her six-bedroom, five-bathroom other mansion.

The conditions contrast sharply with those of two Canadians detained by China on vague espionage charges after Meng’s arrest. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, whose detentions are widely seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest, have been denied access to their families and to lawyers, and have been allowed to meet with consular officials only briefly. For the first few months of their detention, they were kept in cells with lights on around the clock, and sometimes in solitary confinement.

Meng does not mention the men in her letter. She says she has “learned to face up to and accept my situation,” and that time passes much more slowly than it did in Shenzhen, where she was rushing from meeting to meeting.

“It is so slow that I have enough time to read a book from cover to cover,” she writes. “I can take the time to discuss minutiae with my colleagues or to carefully complete an oil painting.” She signed the missive “Sabrina Meng;” she also goes by Cathy.

China accuses two detained Canadians of stealing state secrets

Relations between China and Canada nose-dived following Meng’s arrest. In addition to detaining the two Canadians, China stopped imports of some Canadian agricultural products. A Canadian man who had been sentenced to 15 years in a Chinese prison for drug smuggling was hastily retried and sentenced to death.

U.S. authorities say Meng and Huawei violated sanctions against Iran by misleading banks about the company’s relationship with a subsidiary. Huawei, seen as a national champion in China, denies the charges.

China has cast Meng’s arrest as a politically motivated scheme to contain the country’s rise. In a briefing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged Canada to “take practical measures to correct its mistakes” and to “release Ms. Meng Wanzhou as soon as possible,” the Associated Press reported.

Lawyers for Huawei’s Meng ask Canada to stop extradition proceedings

Meng’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin Jan. 20. Her lawyers are expected to argue that her extradition fails to meet the Canadian standard of dual criminality, which requires the alleged conduct for which Meng was arrested to be illegal in both countries. She has also filed a lawsuit against Canadian officials, whom she argues violated her constitutional rights when they detained her in Vancouver.

At recent court appearances, Meng’s fashion choices have attracted attention. She has worn bright dresses, designer handbags and four-inch stilettos that show off the GPS monitor on her left ankle.

Alberta, Canada: Rat-free for 70 years!

Chris Wenzel wanted his tattoos to live forever. Before he died, he found a way

Philippines recalls its envoys in Canada over tons of rotting garbage

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news