Open Letter to Harjit Sajjan [Meng Wanzhou]

As part of our Campaign to Free Meng Wanzhou, HCSW executive member Henry Evans-Tenbrinke has written an open letter to Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s Minister of Defense.

The letter is reproduced in its entirety, below.

Canadian Minister of Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan addresses the U.S. congressional delegation in Halifax, NS, for the 2016 Halifax International Security Forum



OCTOBER 12, 2020


by Henry Evans-Tenbrinke


Harjit Sajjan

Minister of Defence,



As a former member of the Canadian Forces, I’m appalled by your brazen lack of judgment. On Oct 7, 2020, during a widely-reported panel discussion hosted by Slovakian think tank Globesec, you claimed that China was engaged in “hostage diplomacy.”

It’s frightening that you cannot distinguish between the actions of your own government and those of China. I wish to remind you that, on Dec. 1, 2018, your government acted upon a request of the Trump Administration to arrest Meng Wanzhou, CFO, Huawei Technologies. The US indictment was approved by a New York State court on Aug 22, 2018,1 and the US tried unsuccessfully following that date to pressure dozens of countries, through which Meng travelled, to arrest her. Every single country refused until Meng arrived in Vancouver on December 1, 2018, and your government slavishly acceded to the “urgent” US extradition request.2

Developments following Meng’s arrest confirm her arrest was politically motivated. On December 6, 2018, Trump declared he might release Meng if he secured a favourable trade deal with China.3 He also told John Bolton that Meng was “a bargaining chip” in his trade negotiations with China.4 In fact, in The Room Where it Happened, Bolton reveals that Trump privately gave Meng Wanzhou the nickname, “the Ivanka Trump of China”, a moniker indicating Trump understood he was asking Canada to take a high-value hostage in the person of Meng Wanzhou to be leveraged against the People’s Republic to get a trade deal favourable to the USA.5

So, it was your government, Mr. Minister, which first initiated “hostage diplomacy” in relation to China.  It was only following the arrest of Ms. Meng that the Chinese government arrested Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges. Mr. Sajjan, you are the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

While I have no opinion on the justifiablility of the charges against the Two Michaels, I believe the fraud charges against Meng are unwarranted. After all, they arise from Huawei’s alleged dealings with Iran, in violation of US unilateral sanctions against that country. In the first place, the US unilateral economic sanctions against Iran are illegal. According to the UN Charter, only the UN Security Council has the authority to impose coercive economic measures against member states. And all those UN-approved measures against Iran were lifted in the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Agreement) which came into effect in 2016. When Trump abrogated that agreement in 2018 to the chagrin of the entire world, your government also expressed regret. It stated it hoped that the other parties to the JCPOA would continue to honour its provisions.6

In effect, then, Meng, a Canadian permanent resident, has violated no Canadian law. She’s being held under house arrest by your government for violating a US sanctions regime on Iran that no other country in the world recognizes, including Canada. This bizarre situation is termed US “extraterritoriality”, in which the US tries to enforce its domestic laws on other countries. Canada should not play along!

The arrest and extradition proceedings against Meng have contributed to deteriorating Canada-China relations. At various times following Meng’s arrest, China, which is Canada’s second-largest trading partner, banned importation of Canadian canola, pork, and lobsters. Since livelihoods of thousands of Canadian farmers and fishers depend on the export of these products to China, they were severely affected. 30% of Canadian exports go to China, but Canadian exports only account for less than 2% of China’s imports. So the potential of even more harm is possible. In addition, the promising Chinese-Canadian collaboration on a Covid-19 vaccine collapsed.

Canada and its people paid dearly so far and gained nothing from your government’s decision to hold Meng as a hostage for the USA in its trade negotiations with China.

My specific objection to your remarks regarding “hostage diplomacy” last week arises from your apparent failure to be able to distinguish between cause and effect, a very worrisome trait in a minister of defence. The arrests of the Two Michaels on espionage charges has been widely seen in Canada as tit-for-tat retaliation for your government’s unjustifiable arrest and extradition of Ms. Meng. Many Canadian experts in foreign policy have widely predicted that releasing Meng would result in the release of the Two Michaels and argued therefore for her release.7

Instead of railing publicly against China’s alleged “hostage diplomacy”, I urge you to persuade Prime Minister Trudeau and your cabinet colleagues to drop extradition proceedings against Meng and release her at once.

Please note that I initiated a parliamentary petition, sponsored by NDP MP Niki Ashton, to release Meng Wanzhou: I have strongly urged Canadians to sign and share it.

Yours truly,

Henry Evans-Tenbrinke

Henry Evans-Tenbrinke is a longtime labour, Palestinian, and indigenous solidarity activist resident in Hamilton. He is currently an executive member of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War.

For more information, contact Henry ET

henryevansten [at]











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