GOLDSTEIN: Huawei and China have friends in high places

Jean Charest is throwing his hat into the Conservative leadership race.SunMedia

Wednesday’s?Globe and Mail?report that potential Conservative leadership contender Jean Charest is giving legal advice to Huawei Technologies on the Meng Wanzhou extradition case and its campaign to participate in developing Canada’s 5G wireless network raises an obvious question.

How many friends in high places do Huawei and the Chinese government have while pressuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for favourable treatment?

There’s nothing improper about Charest, a former Quebec Liberal premier and a former federal Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, working for Huawei as part of a legal team at McCarthy Tetrault.

But it’s a big political problem if Charest hopes to become the next Conservative leader, given that the Conservatives oppose allowing Huawei to bid on developing 5G wireless technology, over cyber security concerns.

Huawei says those are groundless, but they were serious enough to cause the U.S. and Australia to bar the company from developing 5G in their countries.

Trudeau hasn’t made a decision on the issue.

Charest joins a growing list of politicians and former politicians sympathetic to Huawei and China, or oblivious to the tense state of Canada-China relations.

Trudeau had to fire former Liberal cabinet minister John McCallum as ambassador to China after he backed the arguments of Meng’s legal team in her extradition case.

The US wants the Huawei CFO on charges — which she denies — of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud to violate American sanctions against Iran.

Following his firing, McCallum, who has business interests in China, told the?South China Morning Post?he urged the Chinese government through former contacts in its foreign affairs ministry to play nice with Canada, leading up to last year’s federal election.

This to help the Liberals get re-elected because the Conservatives, “are much less friendly to China than the Liberals.”

Last June, then foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland had to head off a suggestion by former Liberal PM Jean Chretien, who has business relationships with China, that Canada should block Meng’s extradition.

Freeland wisely responded: “It would be a very dangerous precedent indeed for Canada to alter its behaviour when it comes to honouring an extradition treaty in response to external pressure.”

Chretien, in an idea floated by former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, had offered to head a delegation to China to negotiate the release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

China is holding them on charges of espionage in retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

Then there was Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s jaw-dropping statement at a security conference in November, that “We don’t consider China as an adversary.”

As Postmedia columnist Terry Glavin noted in?Maclean’s, that flew in the face of a finding by Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians that China is a security threat.

In July, Mary Ng, Trudeau’s tone deaf minister of small business and export promotion, tweeted a picture of herself happily eating Canadian ice cream in Beijing, concurrent with China’s incarceration of Kovrig and Spavor and its crushing of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

The?Globe?uncovered a 2017 quote from Francois-Philippe Champagne, Trudeau’s new foreign affairs minister, unctuously praising China in an interview on Chinese state television, including this gem: “Canada, and I would say China, stand out as (a) beacon of stability, predictability, a rule-based system, a very inclusive society.”

While this was before the current tensions between Canada and China, it was also a ridiculous statement to make.

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