The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei CEO, which exploded into an international incident, has sent shockwaves through China, US, and Canada. With anger and resentment towards her arrest rapidly surging in China, many Chinese Canadians are also passionately critical of Canada’s actions.
Meng’s arrest serves as a textbook example of why the rule of law is an absolute in Canada. When US filed proceedings for extradition request with Canada, accusing Meng of committing fraud in breach US sanction, Canada must heed US request to arrest Meng to fulfill its legal obligation under the extradition treaty with the US.
The reason for the strong reactions from many Chinese people against Meng’s arrest lies in their fundamental misunderstanding of how deep respect for the rule of law is in Canada. For those hailing from an authoritarian country, where courts and law are mere pawns of the regime, a system requires absolute compliance with the law seems remote and unfamiliar.
“I think there are very wise people who know Canada well, they probably understand it, but there will be some people in China who find it difficult to understand just how fervently Canadians cling to the rule of law,” said Andrew Leslie, who is a retired Canadian Forces lieutenant-general and one of the parliamentary secretaries to Foreign Affairs Minister Christy Freeland.
“Some people might see the rule of law as an anchor — raise and lower as you see fit — but in Canada, it’s an absolute.”
The Chinese legal system is entirely different from that of the West. What it regards as 'the rule of law' is not part of the Chinese tradition and does not run in Chinese people’s blood. Under the influence of Confucius thinking that rulers are empowered by heaven, the society embraces the absolute authority and the virtue of deference to the ultimate power.
These traditions run afoul with the Western ideology that requires restraining power of authorities through regulations and law. As such, the Chinese political system does not support the supremacy of law in the same way that Western systems do. When a dispute arises, people will resort to the superior authorities to seek solutions rather than to the supremacy of the law.
The hands-off attitude from the Canadian government in Meng’s arrest, as well as Chinese people’s response to it, seems to drive the point home.
“Regardless of what goes on in other countries, Canada is and will always remain a country with the rule of law,” said Canada PM Justin Trudeau. “In arresting Meng, Canada was just following the terms of its extradition treaty with the United States,” said Canada’s Foreign Minister Freeland.
However, their remarks fail to convince Meng’s supporters or quell their anger towards her arrest.
“It is all nonsense!” wrote a WeChat post. “Instead of talking about bullshit, why doesn’t Trudeau just release her!”
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