China accused of 'tit-for-tat' over detention of Canadian woman

Hua Chunying

Hua Chunying. File

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is trying to get more information about a third Canadian citizen detained in China.

"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. "But we are looking into the details (of) this most recent (arrest) that doesn't seem to fit the patterns set by the previous two, but we'll have more to say as we collect the facts on this issue".

Sources said she was being treated well and could be flown back to Canada in the coming weeks.

The news initially caused concern among some China-watchers, who suspected that the case could be connected to two previous arrests of Canadians in China this month.

Canadian teacher Sarah McIver
Canadian teacher Sarah McIver

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were both detained in China shortly after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the United States, in Vancouver on 1 December.

Consular officials are providing assistance to the detainee's family, Global Affairs Canada said.

Although several Canadian officials commented to various media outlets that they have no reason to think the third detention is linked to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, virtually every media outlet and commentator seems to assume there is at least some connection to China's fury over Meng's arrest.

"In the short term, in the next couple of months, I would try to cease any operations in China", she said Thursday.

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Global Affairs Canada confirmed today that a Canadian citizen had been detained but offered no other details, citing the Privacy Act.

Kovrig served as a diplomat in China until 2016 and has been working for the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental agency focused on ending conflicts.

The detentions of the Canadians - including one revealed yesterrday - followed the December 1 arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. Meng has been released on bail.

Along with the third still-unidentified Canadian, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business consultant Michael Spavor are also being detained. Both Kovrig and Spavor are accused of endangering the state security by Beijing. Law-enforcement officials allege that she lied to US banks about a corporate structure devised to get around sanctions against Iran.

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Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Trudeau, said the Trump administration should recognize the importance of countering Chinese efforts to pressure Canada over the extradition of an individual wanted by the U.S.

David Mulroney, a former ambassador to China, said it would be highly unusual if the third arrest is a coincidence.

Last week, a Canadian court released Meng on a multi-million dollar bail, allowing her to stay at a Canadian home with an ankle bracelet and round-the clock-surveillance.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called last Friday for China to release the Canadians, saying their detention was "unlawful" and "unacceptable".

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