It’s all the way with Huawei, as Sabrina Meng Wanzhou’s supporters converge on Canadian courtroom

  • Secret letters, fan fliers and laptop etiquette at the Supreme Court in Vancouver, as Huawei CFO’s bail hearings continue
  • Hundreds of members of the public turned up, some demanding loudly that Meng Wanzhou be freed
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 1:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 8:37pm

“Free Meng Wanzhou! We love you!” shouted Joe Luo outside the British Columbia Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver.

The burly businessman was using his lunch break on Monday to protest against the detention of Huawei CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver on December 1 and faces possible extradition to the US to face fraud charges.

Luo was handing out posters that said “We Love You Huawei” to fellow supporters of Meng, at her bail hearing.

There was no shortage of takers.

A couple of hundred members of the public had converged on the courtroom for the 10am hearing. Some were rubber-neckers. Others were critics of China’s government – including Gao Bing Chen, a prominent anti-Communist-Party blogger, who was clad in a lavender corduroy Mao suit.

But such folk were easily outnumbered by avid supporters of Meng and Huawei.

The crowd filled the 149-seat gallery and about 100 spilled outside in the waiting area, where at least five large televisions were set up to relay proceedings.

Many had arrived in groups of half a dozen of more, animatedly discussing the case in Mandarin during breaks in proceedings. The rousing tones of the Chinese national anthem repeatedly rang out in the gallery, courtesy of a patriotic mobile phone owner.

“The judges here are lawless. Lawless!” said one elderly man queuing outside court. “We are here to support her human rights.”

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The motives of others were less clear. One young man with a brown-dyed feather cut chatted amiably with reporters about the case. But he said he was worried he might not fit in the packed courtroom after the lunch break, before cutting to the chase: could the South China Morning Post deliver a “proposal” to Meng’s husband, Liu Xiaozong, please? He proffered a handwritten letter, neatly folded.

Rejected – but undeterred – the enterprising attendee not only fit in the courtroom by walking in with reporters, he squeezed into a prime position in the front row directly behind Meng – and right next to Liu Xiaozong and one of Meng’s lawyers. It’s not clear whether his proposal was delivered.

On Friday, most of the bail hearing’s attendees had been reporters.

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But over the weekend, China’s government and state media ratcheted up the rhetoric against Canada and the United States, calling Meng’s arrest “vile” and warning of “grave consequences” unless she were released.

Was that the trigger for the big show of support for Meng?

Luo, the flier-wielding businessman, said he was a Canadian citizen who represented no one but himself.

“It’s such a stupid action for Canada, to do such a dirty job, to offend an economic giant,” he said. “Justin Trudeau? Doing such a stupid job, given the position of such a great person as Meng Wanzhou, such a great company.”

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At Friday’s hearing, Meng’s lawyers had tried to reserve a bloc of 20 seats in the public gallery, for Huawei executives, Meng’s legal team, and two unidentified men in grey suits. But on Monday, they had apparently decided on a different strategy and were scattered across the gallery.

“You’re not going to sit right behind me are you?” asked Huawei senior vice-president Scott Bradley with a weary laugh, after the South China Morning Post sat right behind him. The Post’s promise not to look at his open laptop apparently did not reassure him. He found another seat.

Regardless of the motivations of the attendees, they were united when Mr Justice William Ehrcke announced he was adjourning the hearing again until Tuesday.

A groan went up from reporters and the gallery alike, and Meng Wanzhou was consigned to at least one more night in prison.