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China escalates against Canada: Detains third Canadian citizen

Chinese police. (Beijing Patrol/Flickr)
December 19, 2018

China has detained a third Canadian citizen this week in the latest of growing tensions between the two nations.

“Global Affairs Canada is aware of a Canadian citizen detained in China. Consular officials are providing assistance to the family,” said spokesperson Maegan Graveline, according to a CBC News report on Wednesday.

A source told CBC anonymously that Canadian officials learned on Tuesday that the Canadian citizen was taken into custody. The information was reportedly revealed by an acquaintance of the citizen.

The citizen is not reported to be an official of any sort, nor a business person.

The latest detainment takes place shortly after two other Canadian citizens were also detained by China in possible retaliation for Canada’s detention of Chinese company Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.

Meng was arrested by Canadian officials earlier this month at the request of the United States who say Meng violated U.S. sanctions on Iran.

She was later freed on bail, but a court required she surrender her passport and prohibited her from traveling outside Vancouver.

Meng is considered corporate royalty in China, as Huawei is the second leading smartphone company in the world, and is the largest producer of cellular and internet networking equipment.

China condemned the “wrongdoing” of the detention and insisted on Meng’s innocence, then called for her immediate release.

China then arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian citizen Michael Spavor on the same day last week, alleging that the two were engaged in conduct “that endanger China’s national security,” the South China Morning Post had reported.

At the time of his arrest, Kovrig was working as a senior adviser with Northeast Asia for International Crisis Group, an organization not affiliated with his former Canadian government work. Spavor was based in Dandong and involved with a North Korean tourism business.

Neither Chinese nor Canadian officials have said whether or not China acted in retaliation when it detained the three Canadians.

SOAS China Institute in London director Steve Tsang suggested that China’s reputation would be affected if the arrests were indeed retaliatory.

“‘Hostage diplomacy’ is repulsive in the international community and any country that practices it will significantly damage its reputation, international image and credibility as an international partner,” he said.

“Being the second most powerful country in the world, China will get away with this more than most countries if they were to do the same, but it will have significant negative consequences,” he continued.

“With three Canadians being detained multinationals will now have to start to consider or discuss internally if their duty of care to their staff means they need to be more careful with staff being posted to China,” he said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang indicated that China’s arrest of the first two Canadian citizens was lawful, not out of ill will.

“As for Canada’s wrongful detention of Ms. Meng Wanzhou, we have made clear our position. As for these two Canadian citizens who have been taken compulsory measures by China’s state security authorities, I can assure you that the Chinese side will act in accordance with laws and regulations,” he said.

China and Canada are currently carrying out negotiations for a free trade agreement, though the tensions involving the arrests could impact their progress.