Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod is facing backlash on Twitter for sentiments she shared suggesting Canada subject Chinese tech giant Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to similar treatment the Chinese government has imposed on two Canadians being held in that country as retaliation for Canada’s detainment of Meng.
In a reply to KTW, McLeod said emotion drove her decision to tweet and conceded it was inappropriate.
McLeod retweeted a post that suggested Meng — who is under house arrest in Vancouver on allegations she breached United States-imposed sanctions against trade with Iran — be given similar treatment to two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — being held in China.
The original tweet, by Derek Vanstone, a global director at engineering consultancy firm Hatch, stated: “My view? Take away Meng’s bail and give her only the consular access and liberties given to our hostages. No more mansion, 24h lights and no reading glasses.”
In a reply, McLeod tweeted: “Have to say that thought crossed my mind. I am not a lawyer but is there any barriers to this approach?”
The comment drew condemnation from many, including McLeod’s former political rivals Bill Sundhu and Terry Lake.
Sundhu is a lawyer with international human rights experience and ran as the NDP candidate against McLeod in the 2015 federal election. He told KTW the treatment of Meng that McLeod seemed to suggest is illegal, defined in law as cruel and degrading and likely torture.
“We Canadians uphold ourselves as one of the leading democracies in the world, “ Sundhu said. “We respect human rights, we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and when we apply fundamental rights, they apply to everybody. They can’t be applied selectively.”
He added that as frustrating as the current situation is with China, it’s not appropriate for McLeod, as a representative of Parliament, suggest what she did on Twitter.
In a reply to a query from KTW, McLeod said: “After listening to the families of Spavor and Kovrig and knowing the current living condition in a Vancouver mansion of Meng, emotion drove an imprudent tweet. It was not deleted as I do not believe in erasing history, but it was inappropriate. Canada is rightfully proud of our rule of law and Charter of Rights.”
Arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018, Meng is facing extradition to the United States, where she is wanted for conduct Washington considers a violation of U.S.-imposed sanctions against Iran.
American prosecutors allege Meng lied to bank officials inquiring about links between Huawei and a former subsidiary doing business in Iran.
The case has become the centre of a global drama, a proxy squabble between Beijing and Washington that has Canada caught in the middle.
The two Canadians were arrested in China days after Meng’s arrest and accused of violating national-security laws.
A former diplomat stationed in China, Kovrig was working as an analyst and researcher for a think tank called the International Crisis Group. Spavor, from Calgary, was with the Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organization that promotes investment and tourism in North Korea.
They were separately detained on Dec. 10, 2018. Reports out of China suggest the Canadians have been subjected to 24-hour artificial lighting, denied access to lawyers and had only periodic consular visits.
In Vancouver, Meng lives with her husband and daughter in her multi-million mansion and is permitted to leave the house to go shopping, provided she abides by her 11 p.m. to 6 p.m. curfew, has a GPS tracker on her ankle and is accompanied by a security team for which she must pay.
Sundhu said McLeod’s sentiments are particularly disconcerting given the threats to international human rights displayed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
“To borrow from that kind of playbook is highly irresponsible and, if not, dangerous,” Sundhu said, arguing Canada, as a democracy, cannot allow itself to resort to the tactics of the Chinese regime.
—with files from the Vancouver Sun