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China Releases 2 Canadians After Huawei CFO Is Sent Home To China

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Over the weekend, the U.S. and Canada completed a hostage swap. Canada let go a Chinese tech executive who was arrested nearly three years ago by U.S. request, and China released two imprisoned Canadian men. In China, the swap is seen as a resounding victory. NPR Beijing's correspondent Emily Feng reports.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, landed in China over the weekend to a hero's welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in non-English language).

FENG: Dressed in bright red and fighting back tears, Meng gave this speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MENG WANZHOU: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: She says, "after more than a thousand days full of suffering, I have finally returned to the warm embrace of the motherland. Throughout my ordeal, I never stopped feeling the care and love of the Chinese Communist Party, of the motherland and of the Chinese people." Meng was let go Friday after she admitted to misleading banks so her company, Huawei, a Chinese telecom firm, could sell equipment to Iran. In China, her story is told completely differently. Here's Yang Yu, one of China's most famous political pundits, speaking to China's state broadcaster.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YANG YU: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: Yang says, "Meng is a severe case of political sabotage caused by the U.S. government. They barbarously used false crimes to illegally detain a Chinese citizen for no reason whatsoever." In Canada and the U.S., many onlookers recoiled in moral disgust at Meng's case because just nine days after Canada arrested Meng, China detained two Canadian men, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on espionage charges and held them in secret prisons. But in China, these methods are welcome because it sends the message - China will not let the U.S. bully it anymore. Here's Yang again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YANG: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: He says, "after this battle, we can all now appreciate the vital fact that China is not afraid of such challenges. We will band together and fight them." Maggie Lewis, a Seton Hall international law professor, says these divergent views portend more political conflict.

MAGGIE LEWIS: The message has been sent to Beijing that taking hostages when there is one of your nationals who you want back, is giving you leverage, that leverage can work. And so I don't see why we shouldn't be concerned that this could happen again.

FENG: And that means more people could fall into the geopolitical chasm that has opened up between China and American allies.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREDDIE JOACHIM'S "APOLOGY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.