VANCOUVER, Nov 9, 2019, National Post. It was a heart-warming message, speaking of a daughter’s affection for her parent and cherished family traditions now indefinitely on hold. “A father’s love is like the mountains, towering and strong,” Meng Wanzhou gushed on the WeChat social-media site, wishing father Ren Zhengfei well as he turned 75 a few days ago, National Post reported.
It was no ordinary birthday card. The note was written under bail restrictions in Vancouver, where the Huawei chief financial officer is battling a U.S. extradition request, to a father who is also CEO of the telecom behemoth.
“I can’t be there with you, eating the food you make, listening to you chitchat, touching your wrinkles or kissing your smiling face,” said the handwritten note. “And I can’t be there to take your critical advice. Remember, you owe me this. Please make it up after I get back home.”
But it was not just who sent and received the message — posted by Huawei on its Twitter feed and reported by Communist Party-owned Global Times — that made it unusual. The heartfelt greeting, accompanied by a photo of Meng wearing her court-mandated ankle bracelet, also seemed at odds with a complicated father-daughter relationship, part of an intriguing family history.
Ren has said in recent months that he missed his daughter “very much.” But he also admitted largely neglecting his children as he built up one of the world’s largest tech companies, that he doesn’t think Meng is CEO material, and that she was on the verge of quitting just before her arrest.
“The reason we are not close is that when she was little, I joined the military. For 11 months out of a year, I couldn’t be with my kids,” he told a news conference in January. “I was close to none of my three children … So all I can say is, as a father, I feel I owe them.”
Ren has been long divorced from Meng’s mother, Meng Jun — a commissar of Mao’s fanatical Red Guards when they first met — and has since remarried. A company spokesman said media reports of a third wife are false.
His daughter from the second spouse, 25 years younger than the Huawei executive, burst into the limelight about the same time her half sister was arrested, for much different reasons. Annabel Yao was featured in Paris Match, Vogue and other media when she took part in Paris’s Bal des Débutantes, an exclusive coming-of-age gala.
Yao also revealed a love of ballet, which she still performs while chasing a computer science degree at Harvard University.
Ren’s son, Ren Ping, is an executive at a Huawei subsidiary. All three siblings have taken their mothers’ family names for large stretches of their lives.
In a March interview with CTV, the father said Meng “was not happy working here” and wanted to quit, though he later said she had changed her mind. But the father suggested his daughter would never replace him as chief executive.
“She has always been a manager and a manager is good at managing a wide span of issues,” Ren told CTV. “But for a leader, you need to have a strong vertical ability. You need to be able to see things happening in 10 or 20 years… She won’t be a successor because she doesn’t have this background.”
As for languishing on bail — in a multi-million-dollar Vancouver mansion — Ren seemed to invoke Nietzsche in suggesting it would only make his daughter stronger.
“Cuts and bruises toughen her up, and even since ancient times, heroes were born of hardship,” he told CNBC in April. “I think this challenge will be good for my daughter.”