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SHENZHEN / TORONTO – An executive from Chinese global communications giant Huawei Technologies returned from Canada on Saturday night following a legal agreement that also saw the release of two Canadians held by China, which could end a dispute of nearly 3 years involving Ottawa. Beijing and Washington.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of the company’s founder, arrived on Saturday night aboard a chartered plane provided by the flag carrier Air China at the southern technology hub of Shenzhen, where Huawei is based.

His return, reunited with a group of flag-waving airline employees, was broadcast live on state television, underscoring the extent to which Beijing has linked his case to Chinese nationalism and its rise as a global economic and political power.

Wearing a red dress that matches the color of China’s flag, Meng thanked the ruling Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping for supporting her for more than 1,000 days under house arrest in Vancouver, where she owns two multi-million dollar mansions.

“I have finally returned to the warm embrace of the motherland,” Meng said. “As an ordinary Chinese citizen going through this difficult time, I have always felt the warmth and concern of the party, the nation and the people.”

On the same day, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were released and transferred back to Canada. They were detained shortly after Canada arrested Meng in a US extradition request in December 2018. Many countries labeled China’s action “hostage policy,” while China accused Ottawa of arbitrary detention.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hugged the pair on the tarmac after they landed in Calgary, Alberta, early Saturday morning after what amounted to a high-risk prisoner swap involving China, the United States and Canada.

“These two men have been through an incredibly difficult test. Over the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance and grace and we are all inspired by that,” Trudeau said Friday.

Meng, 49, reached a settlement with US federal prosecutors calling for the fraud charges against him to be dismissed next year. As part of the deal, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, he accepted responsibility for misrepresenting the company’s business in Iran.

Shortly before his return, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily declared the resolution of the case a “glorious victory for the Chinese people” achieved through the “tireless efforts of the Chinese government.”

“The evidence shows that this was purely a case of political persecution of a Chinese citizen for the purpose of stifling China’s technological advance,” the newspaper said. “No force can block China’s advance,” he added.

In an emailed statement, Huawei said it would continue to defend itself against the allegations. The company also sent a statement from Meng’s attorney, William W. Taylor III, saying that she “had not pleaded guilty and we expect the charge to be dismissed with prejudice after 14 months.”

The case had caused a major rift in relations between China and Canada, with Beijing launching regular volleys against the Canadian justice system and banning some imports from the country. Additionally, two Canadians convicted in separate drug cases in China were sentenced to death in 2019. A third, Robert Schellenberg, received a 15-year sentence that was sharply increased to the death penalty after Meng’s arrest. It was not immediately clear if those prisoners could receive any clemency.

In Shenzhen, a 20-year-old job seeker at Huawei headquarters echoed the government’s view that Meng’s arrest was driven by politics and rivalry with the United States for technology and global influence.

“I think (this) was to stop Huawei’s development in the world,” said the man, who gave only his last name, Wang, as is common among citizens speaking to foreign media in China, where the government closely monitors. all speeches. “It is a very important reason: nobody wants other countries to have better technology than him.”

Huawei is the world’s largest provider of network equipment for telephone and Internet companies and a symbol of China’s progress to become a global technology powerhouse that has received massive government backing. He has also been a matter of US law enforcement and security concern, with officials and analysts saying he and other Chinese companies have disobeyed international rules and regulations and stolen vital personal information and technology.

The case against Meng stemmed from a January 2019 indictment from the Justice Department under the administration of former President Donald Trump. He accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and using a Hong Kong shell company called Skycom to sell equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions. The prosecution also accused Meng herself of committing fraud by misleading HSBC bank about the company’s business in Iran.

The indictment came amid a broader Trump administration crackdown on Huawei over US government concerns that the company’s products could facilitate Chinese espionage. The administration cut off Huawei’s access to US components and technology, including Google Music and other smartphone services, and then banned vendors around the world from using US technology to produce components for Huawei.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has maintained a hard line with Huawei and other Chinese corporations whose technology is believed to pose national security risks.

Huawei has repeatedly denied the US government’s allegations and security concerns about its products.

As part of the Meng deal, which was revealed in federal court in Brooklyn, the Justice Department agreed to dismiss the fraud charges against him in December 2022, exactly four years after his arrest, provided he meets certain conditions, including not contesting any of the government’s factual allegations. The Justice Department also agreed to withdraw her request that Meng be extradited to the United States, which she had vigorously challenged, ending a process that prosecutors say could have persisted for months.

After appearing by video conference for his hearing with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Meng made a brief court appearance in Vancouver, where he had been out on bail while the two Canadians were in custody. in Chinese prison cells where the lights were kept on 24 hours a day.

Outside the courtroom, Meng thanked the Canadian government for upholding the rule of law, expressed his gratitude to the Canadian people and apologized “for the inconvenience I caused.”

“During the last three years, my life has changed radically,” he said. “It was a disruptive moment for me as a mother, wife, and company executive. But I believe that every cloud has a silver lining. It truly was an invaluable experience in my life. I will never forget all the good wishes I received.”

A video was also circulated online in China of Meng speaking at Vancouver International Airport, saying; “Thank you country, thanks to the people of the country. You have been my greatest pillar of support.”

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Rob Gillies in Toronto, Jim Mustian in New York, and Jim Morris in Vancouver, Canada, contributed to this report.

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