Meng Wanzhou (49), Huawei's chief financial officer, was the daughter of its founder. She reached an agreement with U.S. federal prosecutor that would allow her to have fraud charges against the company dropped next year. She was required to admit that she misrepresented the company's Iranian business dealings as part of the deferred prosecution agreement.
Two Canadian citizens were also released by Beijing and flown home that day.
Meng arrived in Shenzhen, the southern technology hub where Huawei is located, late Saturday.
The Chinese internet was abuzz with her pending return.
Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, posted on social media a report about Meng leaving Canada and added "Welcome back."
Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur were both arrested in China on December 18, 2018, just after Meng was arrested by Canada in response to an extradition request from the U.S. China accused them of endangering national security, and sentenced Kovrig 11 years imprisonment. However, their arrests were widely seen as a Beijing attempt to gain leverage in Meng's case.
"These men have endured an unbelievably hard ordeal. Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister, stated Friday that the men have displayed strength, perseverance, and grace over the last 1,000 days.
This case caused a significant rift between China and Canada. Beijing launched regular attacks on the Canadian justice system, banning certain imports from Canada, and Beijing launched frequent broadsides against it. Two Canadians were also sentenced to death for their involvement in separate drug cases in China. Robert Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in prison, which was then abruptly increased to death after Meng's arrest. It was not immediately clear whether these prisoners would be granted any reprieve.
A 20-year-old job seeker at Huawei's headquarters in Shenzhen reiterated the government view that Meng was arrested for politics and rivalry over technology and global influence.
The man said that he believed this was done to stop Huawei's growth in the world. He gave his surname Wang as it is customary for Chinese to speak to foreign media. It's an important reason. Nobody wants other countries to have better tech than their own.
Huawei is the largest global supplier of network equipment for mobile phones and internet companies. It is a symbol of China’s technological progress and has received huge government support. The U.S. has raised security and law enforcement concerns about Huawei, with analysts and officials claiming that it and other Chinese companies have violated international rules and stolen personal information.
Meng was indicted by the Justice Department under the former President Donald Trump's January 2019 indictment. It claimed that Huawei stole trade secrets and used a Hong Kong company called Skycom for Iran equipment sales, in violation of U.S. sanction. Meng was also indicted for fraud in misleading the HSBC about Iran business transactions.
This indictment was issued amid a wider Trump administration crackdown on Huawei. The U.S. government was concerned that Huawei's products could aid Chinese spying. Huawei was denied access to U.S. parts and technology. Later, the administration barred all vendors from using U.S. technology for Huawei components.
President Joe Biden has, however, maintained a tough line against Huawei and other Chinese companies whose technology could pose national security threats.
Huawei repeatedly denied security concerns and allegations by the U.S. government about its products.
The Justice Department reached a deal with Meng that was revealed in Brooklyn federal court. It agreed to drop the fraud charges against her in 2022, exactly four years after her arrest. However, she must comply with certain conditions. This includes not challenging any of the allegations made by the government. The Justice Department agreed to withdraw its request for Meng to be extradited from the U.S. after she vigorously opposed it. This ended a lengthy process that could have lasted months.
Meng appeared via videoconference in Vancouver for her New York hearing. She'd been released on bail and lived in a multimillion dollar mansion, while the Canadians were in Chinese prison cells, where the lights were on 24 hours per day.
Meng expressed gratitude to Canada's government for upholding the rule-of-law, thanked them, and apologized for any inconvenience caused.
She said, "Over the past three years, my life has been turned upside-down." It was difficult for me as a mom, wife, and a business executive. There is always a silver lining to every storm. It was a life-changing experience. All the positive wishes I received will be etched in my memory forever."
A video of Meng speaking at Vancouver International Airport was also distributed online in China. Your support has been my greatest pillar.
Soon after, Meng boarded an Air China flight to Shenzhen.