The long – and political – arm of US law

  • There is a common thread in the cases against former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping, Huawei’s Sabrina Meng Wanzhou and fugitive mainland billionaire Guo Wengui - America’s multiple fronts against China
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2018, 5:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 8:55pm

America is still the world’s policeman. At least that must be how it looks to Patrick Ho Chi-ping and Sabrina Meng Wanzhou. But US justice can be highly selective – just ask fugitive mainland billionaire Guo Wengui. A common thread in all three cases? It’s America’s multiple fronts against China.

Ho, a former Hong Kong home affairs secretary, has been convicted in New York on seven of eight counts of bribery and money laundering over oil rights for CEFC China Energy in Chad and Uganda, involving US$2.9 million.

Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of the mainland telecom’s founder, has been arrested in Vancouver at the request of the US government on suspicion of violating American trade sanctions against Iran.

I leave aside the question of their guilt or innocence and focus only on the political implications.

Ho’s conviction comes as Washington is trying to discredit the “Belt and Road Initiative” and discouraging other countries from joining it. CEFC’s interests in Chad and Uganda are very much part of the BRI in Africa.

It’s OK to accept risk of temporary non-compliance: Huawei CFO to staff

The original indictment was against both Ho and former Senegalese foreign minister Cheikh Gadio for conspiring to violate US anti-corruption laws. Gadio was the alleged middleman. But he turned prosecution witness and got away scot-free in exchange for testifying against Ho. Ho and Gadio could have switched places. But convicting Ho and exposing CEFC has far greater political value for Washington.

Meanwhile, the Trump White House almost put telecom equipment supplier ZTE out of business and is trying to kneecap Huawei. Allies such as Australia and New Zealand have banned Huawei from supplying 5G networks while Canada is under American pressure to do the same. Huawei’s alleged sanction violations have reportedly been known for years, so why the arrest of the boss’ daughter now?

By contrast, Guo has been living in luxurious exile in New York. He is accused on the mainland of bribery, fraud and money laundering. HK$8.7 billion (US$1.1 billion) of his assets have been frozen by a Hong Kong court while Hong Kong police are separately investigating Guo over alleged conspiracy to launder more than HK$32 billion.

Guo has been working with former Donald Trump confidante Stephen Bannon, as described by The New York Times, for the objective of “bringing about the demise of the Chinese Communist Party”. For that, he has announced setting up a US$100 million fund. Americans seem happy where he is.