Three Canadian citizens have been arrested over the past few weeks in alleged Chinese retaliation for the Huawei case. The Chinese government has announced the arrest of businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig, both accused of threatening national security, while a woman whose identity was not disclosed was arrested for working illegally on Chinese soil.
The attack on citizens was cited as unacceptable by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called for China’s care and said he would not give in to the country’s pressures. He demanded the immediate release of the three detainees in a case that further aggravated the diplomatic crisis between nations that began in early December with the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer.
She was detained in Vancouver while making a connection from an international trip to work and is now awaiting extradition to the United States. She is accused of using ghost banks and front companies to negotiate with North Korea and Iran, which are targets of strong US government sanctions, with negotiations barred for any US-based company.
The manufacturer and the Chinese government deny any such association and call for the immediate release of Wanzhou. Meanwhile, Canada tries to extricate itself from direct responsibility for the case, claiming it is not involved in the US-China trade dispute case. and has only acted against the executive at the request of the
Speaking again on such issues, Trudeau responded to criticism that he would not be acting firmly enough on the case, saying that statements in the press and political stance will not necessarily be of much help. On the contrary, he believes that bravado can even hinder the issue and said he would prefer to follow the path of caution, seriousness and diplomacy.
The prime minister said the Canadian government’s top priority now is to ensure that its citizens come to the country safe and sound. In addition, he is in contact with the Chinese government to obtain information, mainly on the arrest of the woman, which would be a very different case of the two men arrested in the last week. She would be an English teacher and would have irregular documentation, preventing her from staying in the country.
Although the international press has established a relationship between the two cases and the Chinese government itself, in always talking about the matter, always linking the arrests to the arrest of the Huawei executive, Canada avoids establishing such a connection, especially in the case of Spavor and Kovrig. As it is an issue that is allegedly related to Chinese national security, the government avoids commenting on the case and asks for clarification only and a speedy resolution of the issue.
Unofficial information indicates that meetings on detainees have already taken place between the foreign ministries of the two countries. Canada, however, would be trying to gain time with this maneuver, because even with Wanzhou’s presence in the country, it does not have the autonomy to release it precisely because of the extradition agreement with the US.
Huawei’s financial director remains in Canadian territory, where she had her passport withheld so she does not leave the country. She was released on bail and waits in Vancouver for possible extradition to the United States. Because of the holiday season, the process may end up lengthy and less optimistic forecasts indicate that the dispute can be resolved only in February. The manufacturer denies all charges.
In one of his few comments on the case, US President Donald Trump said he could intervene should this be in the interest of his country over the trade dispute with China. The statement led to a further cautious plea from Trudeau, who urged the United States not to turn politics into an extradition case that led to the diplomatic crisis between two countries.
The latest such crisis between China and Canada came in 2014, when a couple, who owned a coffee shop in China, were detained near the border between China and North Korea. Julia Garratt was released after a few days and deported back to her home country while her husband, Kevin, was indicted on spying and stealing state secrets, remaining in jail for two years before returning home. Again, the case would be related to the arrest of an executive in Canada at the request of American authorities.