On Saturday evening, the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, where the tech giant Huawei is headquartered, rolled out a red carpet welcome for Meng, who arrived on a flight chartered by the Chinese government.
Wearing a red dress, Meng emerged from the plane without a face mask and waved to a crowd of more than 100 people waving Chinese flags and shouting “welcome home.”
“I’m finally back home!” Meng said in a brief speech to those assembled on the tarmac, expressing gratitude to her “great motherland,” the ruling Communist Party and, specifically, Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Chairman Xi cares about the safety of every Chinese citizen, and he also keeps my situation on his mind. I am deeply moved.”
Meng ended her speech vowing to uphold the leadership of Xi and the party, and pledging loyalty to her country.
“Where there is a Chinese flag, there is a beacon of faith,” she said emotionally. “If faith has a color, it must be China red.”
While Meng had repeatedly called herself an “ordinary Chinese” in the speech, the grand reception for her was anything but ordinary.
Many called her a national hero, and hailed her return as a symbol of China’s victory over the West.
The commentary called Meng’s case an act of “political persecution” by the US to “crack down on China’s high-tech enterprises” and disrupt the country’s progress.
“China does not stir up trouble, but it is also not afraid of trouble,” it said. “Not a single force can shake the status of our great motherland. Not a single force can stop the advancing steps of China!”
The US case against Meng centered on whether she had misled banking giant HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with an Iranian subsidiary, Skycom, which the US alleges could have put the bank at risk of sanctions violations.
“In entering into the deferred prosecution agreement, Meng has taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution,” acting US Attorney Nicole Boeckmann said in a statement Friday — which went largely unreported by Chinese state media.
Also conspicuously absent was any mention of the release of the two Canadians, Kovrig and Spavor. Some social media posts about their fate were also censored in China.
The two Michaels landed in Calgary, Alberta, before 6 a.m. Saturday local time, a couple of hours before Meng touched down in Shenzhen. They were welcomed on the tarmac by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Spavor, an entrepreneur with business ties to North Korea, and Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, were detained in China in December 2018, nine days after Meng was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver.
Beijing has repeatedly denied taking the two Canadians as political hostages, but observers and legal experts outside of China say the timing of their legal proceedings suggested otherwise.
Their hearings — held separately behind closed doors in March — were announced the day before the first high-level meeting between US and Chinese officials since Joe Biden came to office. And in August, just as Meng’s extradition hearings entered their final stages in Vancouver, Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison for spying and illegally providing state secrets overseas. In the end, even their releases were timed just hours apart.
CNN’s Paula Newton, Steven Jiang and Clare Duffy contributed reporting.
Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou hailed as hero upon return to China