Why labour should demand Meng Wanzhou’s release

On December 1, peace and solidarity activists across the country are organizing the December 1 Cross-Canada Day of Action to Free Meng Wanzhou. Actions are planned in several cities, marking the second anniversary of Meng’s arrest by the RCMP on a US fraud warrant and calling for her immediate release.

The day of action is organized by the Campaign to Free Meng Wanzhou, a coalition that was initiated by the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War and includes the Canadian Peace Congress, World Beyond War, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste and others.

It should be a no-brainer. Meng committed no crime in Canada or in the United States (whose government demanded that she be detained in Vancouver). While she stands accused of “illegal” trade with Iran, through Huawei Corporation of which she is CEO, neither Meng nor Huawei nor China have broken any international or Canadian laws in this regard. All international trade sanctions against Iran were lifted with the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the “Iran nuclear deal” that was reached between Iran and the P5+1 powers (the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China—plus Germany).

The US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and re-applied sanctions against Iran, following Donald Trump’s infamous speech to the UN in February of that year, in which he threatened to annihilate DPRK (North Korea) and Iran.

As the Communist Party of Canada stated when she was arrested in December 2018, “Trump’s attempt to extradite Meng Wanzhou to the US is a continuation of its unilateral and illegal policy of aggression and war against Iran. Canada, by its illegal detention of Meng, is now complicit in these illegal acts. Canada is not “caught in the middle” as the Trudeau government is suggesting but is an enabler and an accessory to what is implicitly a criminal act.”

Yet here, as in many other instances, international law is trumped (pun intended) by the forces of imperialism. Western capitalist countries, and the US in particular, have escalated a renewed Cold War campaign against China, in an effort to undermine that country’s growing influence around the world and its increasing challenge to the global economic and political hegemony of the US and EU.

Imperialist aggression includes promoting hostility and violence among different regions and ethnic groups in China (including in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjian), encircling China militarily through the “Pivot to Asia” strategy (which includes military operations in the East China Sea and the Straits of Taiwan), and isolating China economically and technologically through a combination of tariffs and security measures (such as blocking Chinese mobile phones from 5G networks).

Meng Wanzhou’s arrest – kidnapping, really – is part of this “hybrid war,” and one that has immediate and long-term consequences for working people in this country.

For starters, the Trudeau government’s actions brand the country as a hostile and unreliable global trading partner that is completely subservient to US interests. China is Canada’s second largest trading partner, behind only the US. Immediately after Meng’s arrest in December 2018, exports to China fell sharply and were down by 16 percent in 2019. Agricultural exports were especially hard hit, with canola and soybean down by 98 percent and 69 percent respectively. To help put this into perspective, the canola industry alone contributes around $27 billion annually to Canada’s GDP and sustains about 250,000 jobs.

The threat of job loss is real enough to have caught the attention of BMO senior economist Sal Guatieri, who wrote last year that a full-on trade war with China could cost 150,000 jobs.

As trade with China collapses under the weight of the renewed Cold War, especially in the context of a deep economic crisis, Canada will be compelled deepen its dependence on the US economy. The working class has an objective interest in developing multilateral and mutually beneficial trading relationships with countries around the world, but this has been pushed away through the Trudeau government’s willingness to bend Canada’s sovereignty and independence to the demands and objectives of US global hegemony.

Even in a capitalist country, the struggle for sovereignty and independence are important to the working class. Immediate and urgent policies – like reducing military spending to pay for social programs, expanding public healthcare or taking decisive steps toward climate justice like nationalizing the energy industry – cannot be implemented without some meaningful degree of political independence. Without sovereign control in the political, economic and cultural spheres, the working class and its allies will be virtually unable to carry out a program of progressive reforms, let alone achieve widespread social transformation and advance to socialism.

Criminalizing Meng and Huawei are a key narrative in the new wave of anti-Chinese and anti-communist propaganda from the corporate media and politicians. The unfounded reports of spying and political interference, which have been circulated to try and justify Meng’s arrest, contribute mightily to the spike in anti-Chinese and anti-Asian racism, and jeopardize the safety of well-being of millions of people in Canada who are of Asian heritage. This propaganda is also intentionally designed to put a chill on dissent in Canada. In the lead-up to the December 1 Day of Action, for example, the Campaign to Free Meng Wanzhou has been accused by members of the mainstream media of being funded by the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government. These accusations are absolutely false, but veracity is not important to their claimants, whose intent is to cast doubt upon and marginalize the campaign and its legitimate demands.

Demanding freedom for Meng Wanzhou is not about defending an individual billionaire (which Meng’s father is) or a huge private corporation (which Huawei is). Rather, it is about undermining US imperialism and its efforts to globalize a trade war with China. It is about insisting that an independent foreign policy based on peace and disarmament is urgent and necessary. It is about protecting some semblance of independence and the capacity for the working class to influence economic, political and social policy.

Immigration Minister Medicino has the discretion to end the extradition proceedings against Meng Whanzou, and it is in accordance with the rule of law for him to do so. However, his hand will need to be forced. The Cross-Canada Day of Action (events listed here) and the Campaign to Free Meng Wanzhou are important efforts towards achieving that important goal. Working people should support them.

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