SHENZHEN/TORONTO: Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou arrived in China on Saturday ending her near three-year US extradition fight, the same day two Canadians detained by Beijing for more than 1,000 days returned home, potentially paving the way for improved ties between China and the two western allies.
Meng the daughter of Huawei Technologies founder Ren Zhengfei, was allowed to go home after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors on Friday to end a bank fraud case against her. The extradition drama has been a central source of discord between Beijing and Washington, with Chinese officials signalling that the case had to be dropped to help end a diplomatic stalemate.
Two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities just days after Meng's arrest - Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor - were embraced on the tarmac by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after they landed in Calgary.
"You've shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance," Trudeau said in a Twitter post with photos of him welcoming them home. "Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been."
In the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, Meng wore a patriotic red-colour dress as she alighted from a plane to be greeted by well-wishers.
"I'm finally back home," Meng was quoted as saying by the Global Times tabloid backed by the ruling Communist Party. "The waiting in a foreign country was full of suffering. I was speechless the moment my feet touched Chinese soil."
Chinese state media welcomed Meng back but were silent about Kovrig and Spavor, who were released hours after Meng on Friday.
The agreement opens US President Joe Biden to criticism from Washington's China hawks who argue his administration is capitulating to China and one of its top companies at the center of a global technology rivalry between the two countries.
Some Chinese commentators felt otherwise.
"By agreeing to let Meng return to China, the Biden administration is signalling that it hopes to clear the mess left behind by the former Trump administration," said Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University.
'BLURRING WITH TEARS'
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV carried a statement by Meng, written as her plane flew over the North Pole, avoiding US airspace. Her eyes were "blurring with tears" as she approached "the embrace of the great motherland", Meng said.
Meng was detained in December 2018 in Vancouver after a New York court issued an arrest warrant, saying she tried to cover up attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran in breach of US sanctions.
Acting US attorney Nicole Boeckmann said Meng had "taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetuating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution."
Chinese Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the charges against her had been "fabricated" in order to suppress the country's high-tech industries.
At the airport in Shenzhen, Meng's hometown, a crowd of well-wishers chanted patriotic slogans and held aloft red banners to welcome her return.
"The fact that Meng Wanzhou can be declared not guilty and released is a huge victory in politics and diplomacy for people in China," said Liu Dan, who was among the crowd.
Huawei said in a statement that it "looked forward to seeing Ms. Meng returning home safely to be reunited with her family." It said it would continue to defend itself against US charges.
State news agency Xinhua attributed Meng's release to the "unremitting efforts of the Chinese government".
Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Global Times, wrote on Twitter that "international relations have fallen into chaos" as a result of Meng's "painful three years".
He added, "No arbitrary detention of Chinese people is allowed."