Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou makes first public address since resuming duties after Canadian detention

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou speaks during the Huawei 2021 Annual Report Press Conference in Shenzhen, in China’s Guangdong province, on March 28.STR/AFP/Getty Images

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou has delivered her first public address since resuming her duties last fall at the Chinese technology giant.

“In the past four years, the world has changed a lot, and so has my country,” Ms. Meng said Monday at Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters before announcing the company’s annual results.

The daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, Ms. Meng was detained at Vancouver airport in December, 2018, on an extradition request from the United States. She was accused of lying to bank officials about Huawei’s dealings with a subsidiary that had breached US sanctions against Iran.

Beijing denounced the case against her as a “political persecution,” and shortly after her arrest, two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – were detained in China. They were later charged with espionage and put on trial in 2021 to widespread outrage from Ottawa and its allies.

After more than 1,000 days in detention – which Ms. Meng largely spent under house arrest in a Vancouver mansion, while the two Michaels were kept in solitary confinement – ​​all three were released last September following a flurry of diplomacy between China, the US and Canada .

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Under a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Justice Department, Ms. Meng admitted to making “untrue” statements to bankers about Huawei’s relationship with a subsidiary that did business in Iran but did not enter a guilty plea.

The US subsequently dropped its extradition request, and a court in BC lifted travel restrictions on Ms. Meng, allowing her to fly home.

While the Huawei executive was still in the air, China released the two Michaels – despite having spent years insisting the cases were not related. The two men flew first to Alaska and then to Canada, where they were greeted by their families and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Ms. Meng’s return to China was treated as a major national victory. She flew on a special flight chartered by the government and was greeted at Shenzhen airport by cheering crowds. In a speech after landing, she personally thanked President Xi Jinping, saying he cared for “every Chinese citizen.”

“I will always be proud of being Chinese and be proud of Huawei,” she added, before the crowd on the tarmac sang Ode to the Motherlanda patriotic anthem.

Since her return, Ms. Meng has kept a low profile. She reportedly resumed work in October but had not appeared in public again until Monday’s news conference.

The financial results she delivered in Shenzhen were relatively strong. Huawei reported overall revenue for 2021 at 636.8 billion yuan ($125.6-billion), down 29 per cent but in line with a previous company projection. Chairman Guo Ping said Huawei’s carrier business “remained stable,” with growth in its enterprise and consumer sectors.

Despite the drop in revenue, net profits were up 76 per hundred year-over-year, to 113.7 billion yuan ($22.4-billion).

Huawei has struggled somewhat in recent years as a result of US sanctions and efforts by Washington to block it from 5G networks in the West, including in Canada.

In her speech, Ms. Meng said: “Our ability to make a profit and generate cash flows is increasing, and we are more capable of dealing with uncertainty.”

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