China summons US ambassador over Huawei arrest

Meng Wanzhou was controversially arrested in Canada. (File photo/Reuters)
Updated 10 December 2018

China summons US ambassador over Huawei arrest

BEIJING: China summoned the US ambassador on Sunday to protest the arrest of a top executive from telecom giant Huawei in Canada, as Washington’s top trade negotiator rejected suggestions that the case could affect talks aimed at settling a trade war.
The arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou has infuriated Beijing, which demanded Washington drop its extradition request, and stoked tensions during the trade war truce between China and the United States.
Meng faces US fraud charges related to alleged sanctions-breaking dealings with Iran.
But with negotiations underway against a “hard deadline” of March 1 to settle the tariff dispute between the world’s two biggest economies, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he did not expect the arrest to disrupt the talks.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, is in custody awaiting a Canadian court’s decision on bail on Monday.
Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned US ambassador Terry Branstad one day after he called in Canadian envoy John McCallum to voice China’s displeasure.
“Le Yucheng pointed out that the US side has seriously violated the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens, and the nature of the violation is extremely bad,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The Chinese side firmly opposes this and strongly urges the United States to attach great importance to China’s solemn and just position,” it said.
China also urged the United States to “take immediate measures to correct wrong practices, and revoke the arrest warrant against the Chinese citizen.”
The statement warned that Beijing would make an unspecified “further response” in light of the US actions.
In a case which shook investors and rattled the markets, Meng was arrested in Vancouver while changing planes on December 1, the same day that US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in their trade battle and gave negotiators three months to find a compromise.
Although Trump last week tweeted that the talks would end after 90 days “unless extended,” Lighthizer said on Sunday that March 1 is a firm deadline.
“When I talked to the president of the United States he’s not talking about going beyond March,” Lighthizer said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“If there is a deal to be gotten, we want to get it in the next 90 days.”
He also said that Meng’s arrest “shouldn’t really have much of an impact” on the talks, although he conceded that the Chinese might see it that way.
“For us, it’s unrelated” to trade policy matters. “It’s criminal justice.”
Separately, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow denied reports that Trump was “livid” that the arrest of Meng occurred while Trump dined with Xi.
“He didn’t know,” Kudlow told “Fox News Sunday.” “He learned way later.”
The world’s top two economies have exchanged steep tariffs on more than $300 billion in total two-way trade, locking them in a conflict that has begun to eat into profits.
Since taking office, Trump has waged an often-fierce offensive against Chinese trade practices, which he regularly brands as “unfair.”
He sees the US trade deficit with China as a particular sore point, and the imbalance ballooned to a record $35.6 billion in November, official data showed on Saturday.
Analysts say Meng could become a bargaining chip in the negotiations.
In a bail hearing that was adjourned on Friday, Canadian Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley asked for bail to be denied, saying Meng has been accused of “conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions.”
He said if convicted, she faces more than 30 years in prison.
The extradition process could take months, even years, if appeals are made in the case.
Canada has a long-standing extradition treaty with the United States, requiring it to cooperate with US Department of Justice requests to hand over suspects.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said politics played no part in the decision to arrest Meng.
Huawei said Friday that it would “continue to follow the bail hearing,” expressing “every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach the right conclusion.”
Huawei has denied any ties to the Chinese government, but many in Washington and other Western capitals are skeptical and have raised security concerns.
US federal law already bans military and government use of devices made by Huawei and fellow Chinese firm ZTE.
Influential Republican Senator Marco Rubio told “Face the Nation” that he plans to reintroduce legislation that would ban companies like Huawei from doing business in the US because they “pose a threat to our national interests.”


Australian court upholds sex abuse verdict of Cardinal Pell

Australian Cardinal George Pell (C) is escorted in handcuffs from the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne on August 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2019

Australian court upholds sex abuse verdict of Cardinal Pell

  • Pell’s legal team had appealed his conviction on three grounds, but the three appeal judges only permitted the unreasonable verdict argument to be heard

MELBOURNE: Former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell lost an appeal against his conviction for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choir boys and will remain in prison for at least another three years, an Australian court ruled on Wednesday.
Pell, the highest ranking Catholic worldwide to be convicted of child sex offenses, was sentenced in March to six years in jail after being found guilty on five charges of abusing the two boys at St. Patrick’s Cathedral while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s.
Supreme Court of Victoria Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said on Wednesday that two of the three judges hearing Pell’s appeal “decided that it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Cardinal Pell was guilty of the offenses charged” and rejected his appeal.
The jury in the trial heard testimony from a victim who described how Pell had exposed himself to the two boys, fondled their genitals and masturbated and forced one boy to perform a sex act on him. The other victim died in 2014.
“I am grateful for a legal system that everyone can believe in, where everybody is equal before the law and no one is above the law,” the surviving choir boy, now in his 30s, said in a statement read out by his lawyer, Vivian Waller of Waller Legal.
“The criminal process has been stressful. The journey has taken me to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I could not return from,” he said in the statement.
Under the terms of his sentencing, Pell will be eligible for parole in October 2022, when he will be 81.
“Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today,” his spokeswoman, Katrina Lee, said in a statement, adding that he maintained his innocence.
She said his legal team was examining the judgment to determine whether to lodge a special leave application to the High Court of Australia to hear an appeal. Pell has 28 days to file the application.
There was no immediate comment from the Vatican.
Pell appealed his conviction to Victoria’s Court of Appeal on three grounds, but mainly on the argument that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable based on the evidence at the trial.
However the court ruled in a 2-1 judgment that the conviction was reasonable, with two judges saying the surviving victim was a “compelling witness, was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth.”
“As might have been expected, there were some things which he could remember and many things which he could not. And his explanations of why that was so had the ring of truth,” said the two judges.
In contrast they said the evidence by people supporting Pell varied in quality and consistency.
They dismissed Pell’s argument that sexual abuse would have been physically impossible due to his heavy robes, saying “the robes were capable of being maneuvered in a way that might be described as being moved or pulled to one side or pulled apart.”
Outside the court in Melbourne, small groups of activists and victims of abuse cheered once they heard the verdict.
“Here we have today in our court, in Victoria, the Supreme Court, saying, ‘we believe the victim and we uphold the jury’s verdict’,” Chrissie Foster, a prominent advocate for victims who has followed the case, told reporters.
“No one is above the law,” she said.

STILL A CARDINAL
The pope has previously said he would wait for Australian civil justice to take its course before commenting on the case publicly.
Pell is still a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. Even if he resigns as a cardinal, he would still be a priest.
Before he could be dismissed from the priesthood, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) would have to find him guilty following a separate canonical trial or abbreviated procedure, known as an “administrative process.”
The CDF has been looking into the accusations against Pell since his conviction in Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the courts had done their job and the justice system must be respected. He also said he expected Pell would lose his Australian honors.
Pell was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2005 and awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001.
Pell’s legal team had appealed his conviction on three grounds, but the three appeal judges only permitted the unreasonable verdict argument to be heard.
The dissenting view from Justice Mark Weinberg said the victim “was inclined to embellish aspects of his account” and he said the evidence contained enough discrepancies and inadequacies to cause him to doubt Pell’s guilt. Weinberg said that in his view the convictions could not stand.
Pell’s case has attracted global attention as it brought a growing crisis of sexual abuse in the Catholic church spanning scandals in the United States, Chile and Germany right to the heart of the papal administration.
The Australian judges said Pell should not be made a “scapegoat for any perceived failings of the Catholic church nor for any failure in relation to child sexual abuse by other clergy.” They said his conviction and sentence was not vindication of the trauma suffered by other victims of abuse.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Catholic church’s top body in Australia, said it accepted the court’s decision and acknowledged the pain that those abused by clergy have experienced through Pell’s trials and appeal.