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Huawei crackdown

Huawei CFO Meng returns to China after striking U.S. deal

Executive's eyes 'blurring with tears' after 1,000-day extradition saga

Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou waves upon arriving from Canada at Shenzhen Baoan International Airport in Shenzhen, China, on Sept. 25.   © CCTV via Reuters

SHENZHEN/TORONTO (Reuters) -- Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou arrived in China on Saturday after more than 1,000 days under house arrest in Canada following a deal with U.S. prosecutors to end a fraud case against her.

Two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities just days after Meng's arrest have also been released and they arrived in Calgary on Saturday, where Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received them, local media reported.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei Technologies founder Ren Zhengfei, was allowed to go home after reaching the deal on Friday to end the fraud case. That resulted in the scrapping of her U.S. extradition hearing in a Vancouver court the same day.

The yearslong extradition drama has been a central source of discord between Beijing and Washington, with Chinese officials signaling that the case needed to be dropped to help to end a diplomatic stalemate.

Chinese state media welcomed Meng back to the "motherland" on Saturday, but Chinese media kept silent about Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians released from Chinese custody in an apparent reciprocal act by Beijing.

They were also released a few hours after Meng, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.

Footage from TV channel CTV showed Trudeau welcoming the two Michaels after they arrived in the western Canadian city of Calgary.

The Prime Minister's Office did not offer an immediate comment.

The deal opens U.S. 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.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV carried a statement by the Huawei executive, written as her plane flew over the North Pole, avoiding U.S. airspace.

Her eyes were "blurring with tears" as she approached "the embrace of the great motherland," Meng said. "Without a strong motherland, I wouldn't have the freedom I have today."

Meng was arrested 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 U.S. sanctions.

After more than two years of legal wrangling, she was finally allowed to leave Canada and fly back to China on Friday, after securing the deal with U.S. prosecutors.

Acting U.S. attorney Nicole Boeckmann said Meng had "taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetuating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution."

But 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, founded by Meng's father Ren Zhengfei, 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 U.S. charges.

State news agency Xinhua formally acknowledged the end of Meng's house arrest on Saturday, attributing her release to the "unremitting efforts of the Chinese government."

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times tabloid backed by the ruling Communist Party, 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."

However, neither Hu nor other media have mentioned the release of Spavor and Kovrig, and reactions on China's Twitter-like Weibo social media platform have been few and far between.

China's foreign ministry has not commented publicly.

China has previously denied engaging in "hostage diplomacy," insisting that the arrest and detention of the two Canadians was not tied in any way to the extradition proceedings against Meng.

Spavor was accused of supplying photographs of military equipment to Kovrig and sentenced to 11 years in jail in August. Kovrig had still been awaiting sentencing.

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