Protester says she was paid to appear at Huawei hearing

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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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A small group of people were holding placards in support of Meng Wanzhou outside court on Monday

A Canadian actor said she was unwittingly hired to protest in support of a Huawei executive fighting extradition to the US.

Julia Hackstaff told local media she thought she had taken a job as a background extra.

Instead she found herself holding a placard outside the Vancouver courthouse where telecoms executive Meng Wanzhou was to appear for an extradition hearing.

The high-profile case opened on Monday.

The US is demanding that Ms Meng, chief finance officer of China’s largest telecommunications firm, face charges linked to alleged violation of US sanctions against Iran.

The executive, daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, denies the allegations. She was detained in Canada in December 2018 at the request of US authorities.

The case is being closely watched in Canada, the US and China.

As the hearing was due to commence on Monday morning, a small group of protesters stood outside the British Columbia supreme court.

They held similar looking signs with phrases like “Free Ms Meng”, “Equal Justice”, and “Bring Michael home”.

The last slogan is an apparent reference to two Canadian nationals – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – who were detained in China shortly after Ms Meng’s arrest in Canada.

Ms Hackstaff said she found herself among the group and was handed a protest sign.

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Getty Images

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Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou extradition hearings are being closely watched

An acquaintance contacted her through Facebook on Sunday with an acting job as a background performer for the next morning, she told several Canadian news outlets.

The pay for two hours was C$100 ($76; £58).

She only realised she was not part of a performance when journalists outside the courthouse began to ask them questions, she said. She left shortly afterward.

Ms Hackstaff said the acquaintance who recruited her also seemed unaware that the job was not an actual production but a protest.

She did not respond to the BBC’s request for comment but posted to social media that she was “deeply hurt” by the whole incident, which she called a “nightmare”.

Several protesters spoke anonymously to various media outlets and said they had also been paid to appear but were not sure who had organised the protest.

One protester told The Breaker, a Vancouver-based news outlet, that he thought he was being paid C$100 to appear in a music video.

It was unclear who organised the staged protest. Huawei has denied involvement.

The company had nothing to do “with the protestors or supporters outside the Vancouver courthouse and is unaware of any plans by those responsible,” a Huawei spokesman said.

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