The Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, wanted by the United States on fraud charges, has already been leading a cushy life in her gated, seven-bedroom mansion in Vancouver, out on $8 million in bail and awaiting the outcome of her extradition hearing.
But now it turns out that her life as one of the world’s most famous detainees is more comfortable than previously known, and that she wants even more freedoms, according to new details that emerged during a two-day bail hearing this week.
Ms. Meng receives regular private painting lessons and massages at the mansion. She has gone on private shopping sprees at stores reserved for her and her entourage, albeit with a GPS tracker on her left ankle. She spent Christmas Day at a restaurant that opened just for her, her husband, her two children and 10 other guests.
This week, her legal team made another request: that she be allowed to leave her home without security guards. A judge is expected to rule at the end of the month.
Ms. Meng, 48, daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, has been held in Canada for more than two years on an extradition request from the United States.
Her detention has severely strained Canada’s relations with China. At the same time, her luxurious living conditions have raised hackles in Canada, where critics have contrasted them with the dire, truncated lives of two Canadians jailed by China in apparent retaliation.
This week’s hearing underlined how the pandemic has affected Ms. Meng’s life and spilled over into her legal case. Her defense team argued that her rotating security detail potentially exposes her to the coronavirus. But the prosecution countered that she and her family had flouted pandemic protocols, by, among other things, sharing plates of food among a large group.
Ms. Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018, during a layover on a trip from Hong Kong to Mexico. In an indictment against Ms. Meng and Huawei, the U.S. Department of Justice charged her with fraudulently deceiving four banks into making transactions to help the company illegally evade U.S. sanctions against Iran. She has denied the charges.
The Trump administration has argued that the company should be viewed as an agent of the Chinese government.
Ms. Meng currently lives in a mansion valued at about $14 million Canadian dollars, about $11 million U.S. dollars, in Vancouver’s exclusive Shaughnessy neighborhood. She is allowed to move relatively freely in Vancouver; before the pandemic, she attended a concert by a Chinese singer.
But the terms of her bail subject her to 24-hour surveillance by a security team, at her own expense, and she must be at home during a nightly 11 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew.
Her confinement, though, has not been devoid of stress. Douglas Maynard, the president of the security firm monitoring her, told the court that there had been several threatening letters sent to her in June and July of 2020, and that the Chinese consulate had asked the Canadian government to return Ms. Meng immediately to China for her safety.
In Canada, critics have contrasted her opulent living conditions with those of the two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were detained shortly after Ms. Meng’s arrest and accused of espionage. For two years, they have been isolated and subjected to harsh conditions in jail in China, unable to see their families.
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, accused China of holding the two Canadians for ransom. “Every step in the legal process against Ms. Meng is mirrored by a fake Chinese process,” Mr. Mulroney said. “Meng is a princess in their system.”
During this week’s hearing, Ms. Meng’s defense team argued that her security guards undermined her ability to go outside with her children because the guards attracted too much media attention. Ms. Meng’s husband Liu Xiaozong testified that posed a potential health risk to Ms. Meng since she had undergone surgery for thyroid cancer several years ago and suffers from hypertension.
But prosectors from Canada’s Department of Justice argued that allowing her to roam freely without guards posed too much of a flight risk. Mr. Maynard said that her ankle bracelet had failed “on many different times.”
Mr. Liu and their two children — a daughter, age 12, and a son, age 18 — were given permission to come to Canada in the fall. He and the two children plan to return to Hong Kong at the end of February, he said.
Mr. Liu acknowledged in court that he and their two children had contact with Ms. Meng during the two weeks after they arrived in Canada from Hong Kong, despite rules requiring a 14-day quarantine.
Prosecutors noted that in May, when a court decision could have resulted in her being freed, a plane had been chartered to potentially take her back to China if the judge ruled in her favor. In the end, the judge ruled against her.
Mr. Liu said Ms. Meng would obey her bail conditions, and wanted to be a “good mom and a good example to the kids.”
Tracy Sherlock contributed reporting from Vancouver.