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General view of The High Court in Admiralty. 18JUN20 SCMP/ Warton Li

Hong Kong court hears Meng Wanzhou’s application to access HSBC documents to undergird her bid to quash extradition to US

  • The High Court did not make a ruling after the 30-minute hearing
  • A second hearing is set for April 12, according to the court’s schedule

A closed-door hearing was held on Friday afternoon at Hong Kong High Court over whether HSBC must provide certain documents related to the extradition case of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou as the Chinese telecoms giant widened a legal battle to avoid sending its founder’s daughter to the US for trial.

The Hong Kong court didn’t make a ruling on Friday. The hearing lasted for about 30 minutes. Lawyers who went out of the hearing room declined to make any comments. The case is due for a one-day hearing on April 12, according to the court’s schedule.

The application, filed in the name of Vancouver-based Meng to seek access to documents relating to her extradition case, was filed at the end of February days after a similar request from Meng was rejected by a London court.

Meng, also known as Sabrina, is the daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei and was detained by Canadian authorities in December 2018 at the request by the US Justice Department over claims that she had misled HSBC about Huawei’s business deals with Iran during a 2013 meeting.
Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaving her home to attend a hearing at the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver on Friday, December 11, 2020. Photo: The Canadian Press via AP.

Meng maintains her innocence and has been trying to obtain the documents from HSBC to prove that HSBC had known the business deals of Huawei in Iran beforehand and she didn’t mislead the bank, thus negating the fraud allegations against her that form the basis of the US extradition request.

The HSBC documents sought by Meng include internal bank papers about its compliance evaluation relating to Huawei and Skycom Tech, the unit used by the Chinese telecommunications company in its business dealings with Iran from December 2012 to April 2015.

At the same time, a Canadian government lawyer who represents the US interests in the extradition case, Robert Frater, said at a hearing earlier this month that it was inappropriate for the judge to weigh evidence that would be eventually be presented in New York if Meng were sent there to face the accusations. “Save it for the trial,” Frater said.

Huawei’s efforts to prove that Meng didn’t defraud HSBC is part of a legal battle strategy by Meng’s lawyers to convince the Court of British Columbia that Meng should not be extradited to the US. The lawyers are also using former US President Donald Trump’s meddling in the case as well as abuse of process during the detain of Meng to argue that Meng should be set free.

Alykhan Velshi, vice-president of corporate affairs for Huawei Canada, said in a telephone interview hours before the court hearing in Hong Kong that it is hard to predict the Hong Kong court ruling or eventual timeline of the case: hearings in the Vancouver extradition case are expected to continue until May 14 but appeals could drag proceedings out for years.

However, Huawei will try to show the court that the information Meng is seeking from HSBC “will go to the heart of her ability to demonstrate that there were material omissions and misstatements” at the US requests in her extradition, and that “there’s no other means by which she could otherwise obtain it,” Velshi said.

HSBC executives declined to comment in Hong Kong. The bank, which is  relocating some of its top executives from London to Hong Kong as part of its pivot to Asia, has been trying to stay away from the controversy since the bank is not a direct party in Meng’s extradition case. However, the bank was alleged by Chinese state media of colluding with Washington DC over the case of Meng, poisoning its trust among the public in mainland China. The bank had previously issued a statement denying accusations that it had framed Meng.
Meng’s case is widely watched as it matters to the US-China rivalry as well as the relationship between China and Canada. In a move widely seen as a  retaliation against Canada’s detention of Meng, which Beijing denies, China has detained two Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Separately, the Global Times, an affiliate of party mouthpiece People’s Daily, reported on Thursday that China will “soon” hold the first trial for the two Canadians two years after they were detained.