Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou arrived back in China on Saturday, ending her near three-year US extradition fight, the same day two Canadians detained by Beijing for more than 1,000 days also returned home.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei Technologies founder Ren Zhengfei, was allowed to go home after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors on Friday to end a bank fraud case against her.
Ms Meng was detained in Vancouver in December 2018 on foot of a US extradition request, after a New York court issued an arrest warrant, saying she tried to cover up attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran in breach of US sanctions. She has remained in Canada since her arrest in Vancouver.
The extradition row has been a central source of discord between Beijing and Washington, with Chinese officials signalling that the case had to be dropped to help end a diplomatic stalemate between the two.
The two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who had been detained on spying charges by Chinese authorities just days after Ms Meng's arrest, were embraced on the tarmac by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau after they landed in Calgary.
“You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance,” Mr Trudeau said in a Twitter post with photos of him welcoming them home. “Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been.”
In the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, Ms Meng wore a patriotic red-coloured dress as she exited a plane to be greeted by well-wishers.
“I’m finally back home,” she was quoted as saying by the Global Times tabloid backed by the ruling Communist Party. “The waiting in a foreign country was full of suffering. I was speechless the moment my feet touched Chinese soil.”
Chinese state media welcomed Ms Meng back but were silent about Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor, who were released hours after Ms Meng on Friday.
Huawei said in a statement that it “looked forward to seeing Ms Meng returning home safely to be reunited with her family”. It said it would continue to defend itself against US charges.
The agreement with Ms Meng opened US president Joe Biden to criticism from Washington's China hawks, who argue his administration is capitulating to China and one of its top companies amid a global technology rivalry between the two countries.
Some Chinese commentators felt otherwise.
“By agreeing to let Meng return to China, the Biden administration is signalling that it hopes to clear the mess left behind by the former Trump administration,” said Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University.
The deal with Ms Meng calls for the US justice department to dismiss fraud charges late next year in exchange for Ms Meng accepting responsibility for misrepresenting her company’s business dealings in Iran.
Acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York Nicole Boeckmann said Ms Meng had “taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetuating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution”.
China has previously denied engaging in “hostage diplomacy”, insisting that the arrest and detention of the Canadians was not tied in any way to the proceedings against Ms Meng.
Mr Spavor was accused of supplying photographs of military equipment to Mr Kovrig and sentenced to 11 years in jail in August. Mr Kovrig had still been awaiting sentencing.
Mr Biden said in an address before the UN General Assembly earlier this week that he had no intention of starting a "new cold war", while Chinese leader Xi Jinping told world leaders that disputes among countries "need to be handled through dialogue and co-operation". – Reuters/AP