Huawei heiress gets to grips with curfew, electronic tag

Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaving her home under the supervision of security in the Canadian city of Vancouver on Wednesday. She faces an 11pm to 7am curfew while on bail.
Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaving her home under the supervision of security in the Canadian city of Vancouver on Wednesday. She faces an 11pm to 7am curfew while on bail.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

VANCOUVER • Accused of sanctions busting and forced to abide by a curfew and wear an ankle bracelet as she awaits possible extradition to the United States, China's "Princess of Huawei" could be said to have fallen spectacularly from grace.

But Ms Meng Wanzhou, heiress to her billionaire father's global tech conglomerate, is managing to surround herself with a few home comforts.

Huawei's chief financial officer was arrested on Dec 1 on a US warrant for alleged sanctions-breaking dealings with Iran, while changing planes in Vancouver.

She faces more than 30 years in jail if convicted, but was freed on C$10 million (S$10 million) bail on Tuesday night pending the outcome of an extradition hearing, which could take months, or even years, if appeals are made.

The following morning, Ms Meng was spotted by Agence France-Presse answering the front door of her Vancouver house to three visitors bringing flowers who arrived in a sedan with diplomatic plates.

Outside, a handful of local residents walked their dogs past a group of journalists while a security guard watched from a car down the block.

Later, Ms Meng stepped out to offer reporters slices of pizza that she had ordered in, though they politely declined.

Ms Meng's husband Liu Xiaozong in 2009 bought the six-bedroom house where she must remain in Vancouver's Dunbar neighbourhood - a leafy quiet enclave of single-family homes a few blocks from an urban forest.

Although valued at a hefty C$5.6 million, the house - on a large corner lot with a view of the Pacific coast city's majestic north shore mountains - does not stand out as particularly ostentatious.

Ms Colleen McGuinness, who lives in the neighbourhood, said the reaction to the executive's arrival has been muted.

"I don't think I'll see her at the grocery store," Ms McGuinness said. "She's obviously been here before, she's just another person in the neighbourhood, but with a bit of an entourage."

Ms Meng's husband, Mr Liu, resided at the 28th Avenue home up until 2012 while working on a master degree, and the couple's son attended a local pre-school.

Ms Meng's in-laws have also spent several summers at the house, and her mother and older son visited too.

While on bail, Ms Meng is required to wear an electronic anklet and a security team paid by her has been assigned to monitor her movements in Vancouver. She also has an 11pm to 7am curfew.

Speaking through her lawyer, Ms Meng sought to put a brave face on her situation - saying she looked forward to spending time in Vancouver with her family, and maybe applying for a doctorate programme at the University of British Columbia while the extradition case plays out.

Her lawyer, Mr David Martin, argued that she was not a flight risk because it would otherwise "embarrass China itself".

Ms Meng also cited health reasons for requesting bail.

"I have been working hard for 25 years and if I were to be ordered released my only simple goal is to be with my husband and my daughter," she said, adding: "I haven't read a novel in years."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2018, with the headline 'Huawei heiress gets to grips with curfew, electronic tag'. Print Edition | Subscribe