Protester at Meng Wanzhou hearing says he was told he'd be paid $100 to be in a music video
VANCOUVER -- An actor who was part of a group of young people protesting outside of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou's extradition hearing on Monday says she thought she was performing as an extra in a film shoot, not attending a real protest.
"This reporter … she started asking us questions," said Julia Hackstaff. "I don't know how much time it was, it felt like forever, it was probably just 20 or 30 seconds, but then I realized no: this is a real reporter."
Amidst the media circus surrounding the extradition trial of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the group of young protesters stood out. On Monday, reporters noticed a group of young people standing with hastily-made signs that read "Bring Michael home," "Trump stop bullying us" and "Free Ms. Meng – Equal Justice."
The protesters wouldn't tell reporters their names or what group they represented, but some are now coming forward after footage of the awkward encounters between real reporters and pretend protesters spread widely on social media.
Hackstaff said she genuinely believed she was showing up for a film shoot – and thought it was odd that the group of young performers weren't given any directions before cameras started rolling.
As first reported by Bob Mackin and theBreaker.news, one young man told an independent filmmaker he'd been told he'd be paid $100 to be in a music video shoot.
The man refused to give his name or appear on camera, according to the filmmaker, Ina Mitchell (@inamitchellfilm). But in an audio recording she made, he can be heard saying that when he showed up at the courthouse and saw a lot of cameras, he assumed it was for the music video shoot he'd been told about.
"When there were all these cameras and stuff, for a long time I believed it was filming a scene where someone was coming out of a car and I was like OK, I'm genuinely OK to do this," he said.
"Then the reporters started showing up and I was like, I don't really feel great about this anymore."
The man said he decided to stick around and hold a sign in hopes of getting the payment he was promised. But when he started to ask about getting the $100, "there was a merry-go-round of non-answers."
Hackstaff's story is similar: she said she heard from an acquaintance she knows on Facebook of a Monday morning job to be a background actor at the courthouse. The pay would be $100, which she never received, she said.
When Mackin approached the protesters to ask who they were and why they were protesting, one immediately said "I'm leaving," and walked away, according to video of the encounter (that person was Hackstaff, she confirmed).
Another said the group was at court to call for "equal justice," then admitted he didn't know the details of the case, or that it was about the United States attempting to extradite Meng to face fraud charges.
Now Hackstaff says she wants to know who was behind the fake protest.
"I'm very curious to know where the names lead to and who is responsible, so that person gets called out," she said.
"At the end of the day it's really unfair that I was there for only a few minutes, but I'm the only name and face that's being singled out."
The high-profile extradition case has increased tensions between Canada and China. After Meng was detained at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 and then arrested at the request of the United States, China detained two Canadian citizens who had been living in China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
Some Canadian commentators have called for Canada to release Meng in order to secure the release of Spavor and Kovrig.
But speaking to reporters in Winnipeg on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Canadian government's priority is the well-being and release of the two Canadians detained by China, Kovrig and Spavor.
"Our government has been clear that we are a rule of law country and that we honour our extradition treaty commitments. That is what we need to do and that is what we will do," she told reporters in Winnipeg.
With files from The Canadian Press.