Dear Mr. Zhengfei,
We have never met, not even shared our presence on the same events or exchanged messages. Not a single email or call. Total strangers we are and yet we have something in common. Something which connects us at a level where countries, languages, continents, and most of all politics have no value at all, none whatsoever. We are both fathers and that connects us.
We both experience the responsibility for the wellbeing of our children as a privilege, a privilege we simply do not want to be without. I assume you remember that wonderful moment when you held your firstborn for the first time and how it changed your entire life and your priorities just as much as I remember and cherish that moment.
All the anticipation and preparation, all the good advice from everyone around us and still nothing prepares you for that lifechanging moment when you hold your firstborn for the first time. The magic of parenthood is that these emotions are just as strong with the second child, or the third. It is at that moment when parents, mothers and fathers alike, know that nothing is more important than the wellbeing of this little miracle, the newborn child in our lives.
Last night I reviewed my research notes on the pending case against your firstborn child. A growing dossier, filled with notes, citations, questions, references to other files, and more questions. As an analyst and strategist, I am proud of my ability to focus on facts and impact and leave emotions of myself and others out of the equation. This is important to stay objective but also to protect myself against becoming emotionally involved in the work that I do.
No matter how passionate I am about cybersecurity and leadership, transparency and common standards, inclusion and accessibility, I always prevent the influence of emotions in my work. Last night, after another long day full of processing information and analyzes, my attention was drawn by a sentence I had underlined at least 4 times. “Meng Wanzhou, daughter of Ren Zhengfei”. Daughter of Ren Zhengfei.
Suddenly, this entire dossier had a different dimension. No longer just a pile of information and questionable politically motivated actions and reactions. No longer just pawns on a chessboard where a strategy is played out and the spectators are following every move and try to predict the outcome. No longer just an escalating chain of tit-for-tat in which there simply cannot be any winners. Suddenly, this dossier was about somebody’s daughter, about somebody’s father.
With this realization, I poured myself a glass of wine and asked myself a very difficult question. “What would I do if I were in your shoes?”. How would I respond? How far would I be willing to go to protect my own daughter? Would I wave fairness and justice for her wellbeing, just so she would get her freedom back and enjoy her life again? Would I be willing to strike a deal which goes against everything I believe in for the safety and wellbeing of my firstborn?
Sitting in my office, a glass of wine on my desk, my children safe and enjoying their freedom, all these questions are easy to answer because I simply am not in your shoes. I am not carrying the burden that the wellbeing and safety of my child is being threatened. I am not walking in your shoes and I never want to be forced to walk in your shoes and carry your pains. Nor do I ever want my children to be harmed in the way your daughter is harmed.
I have to admit that when I opened this dossier early 2019, I never thought about the personal impact. I too handled this as set of information on an ongoing case, like I do with all dossiers I work on and most of my peers do. Some will already have formed their opinions and let that guide the content of their dossiers and publications, others like me will focus on information and facts before they form their opinions. It may sound harsh but most of us hardly look at the personal impact and neither did I.
Until last night, when I became aware that this is not just another page in the history books that will be written about our times. This is not just moving a pawn in a game of chess. This is personal and based on all the information I evaluated; I cannot help to become convinced that this is designed to be personal. A politically motivated move to harm your daughter. Part of an ongoing trade war and the objective to demolish your company.
At the same time, my thoughts also go out to Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and their families. They too are caught up in this tit-for-tat which even involves Canada. Canada, a country known the world over for its kind people and open culture. Many of my fellow landsmen have chosen to build a future in Canada because of its beautiful mix of openness and unity. Many of your fellow landsmen have chosen the same path, including your daughter.
It should not be that these families are harmed in a dispute at political level, it should not be that your daughter and the friendly Canadians are dragged into this, and it saddens me deeply that it happened, nevertheless. Just like you and the families of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, I’d like to also call on all parties involved to end this dispute and return to peaceful relationships between the people of Canada and China.
While reading some of the interviews you gave as part of my research, I noticed that we have something else in common. We both have a soft spot for the friendly Canadians, their thrilling cities and their overwhelmingly beautiful diverse countryside. I agree with you that geopolitical developments should not drive people apart.
From strategist to strategist, we both realize that this dispute has crossed a redline. Holding someone’s child hostage to gain leverage might be acceptable in some obscure business circles, commonly referred to as the underworld. From father to father, I hope this will all be over soon, and you and your daughter and both Michaels and their families will be freed from this harmful abuse of political powers.
Dr. ir Johannes Drooghaag