China detains 2 Canadians
Harsh measures warned if Ottawa doesn’t release Meng
Published: Dec 13, 2018 10:43 PM

News media follow a car carrying Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou and her security detail as they departs Meng's home after she was released on bail in Vancouver on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

China has informed the Canadian government of the detention of two Canadians who are under investigation on suspicion of jeopardizing China's national security, saying their legal rights will be protected.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lu Kang made the remarks at Thursday's routine press conference.

National security authorities in Dandong, Northeast China's Liaoning Province and in Beijing are investigating the cases involving Canadians Michael Kovrig and Spavor Michael Peter Todd, Lu said.

Kovrig, whose detention was confirmed by Chinese authorities Wednesday, works for an organization that is not registered in the Chinese mainland.

Spavor, according to an Associated Press report on Thursday, is known for his contacts with high-ranking North Korean officials, including North Korea's top leader Kim Jong-un. Spavor also helped facilitate NBA player Dennis Rodman's visit to North Korea in 2013.

The detention of the Canadians comes 10 days after Canada detained Chinese technology firm Huawei's senior executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition request from the US.

Meng was released on C$10 million ($7.5 million) bail on Tuesday.

Asked if the detention of the two Canadians had anything to do with Meng's case, Lu said that "China acted according to laws and regulations."

The detentions are signs that relations between China and Canada may dramatically deteriorate if Ottawa continues to serve as a US pawn by detaining a Chinese citizen, Chinese analysts said on Thursday.

China has clearly stated several times its position on Meng's case, and warned that Canada will face "grave consequences" if the country does not immediately release Meng.

To make that happen, China may adopt restrictions on imports of Canadian products and take others measures, Chinese analysts said.

The detention of Meng also irritated Canadian residents. Some Canadian residents have called or emailed the Chinese Embassy in Canada criticizing Canada's unwarranted detention of Meng and calling on their government to immediately release her, the Chinese Embassy said on its website on Thursday.

One Canadian resident even presented the bow of a spruce tree to the embassy to express his friendliness to the Chinese people, and he apologized to the Chinese people for his government's misdeed.

Political motivation

Meng's detention is purely a political case, serving as part of US strategy of containing China, Chinese analysts said on Thursday.

"The detention of Meng, who was in transit, under US rules and waiting for the US' request to decide whether to release Meng, made Canada the  51st state of the US, and the whole incident is a burning shame for a sovereign state like Canada," Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Canada has shot itself in its own foot by doing such a stupid and disgraceful thing," Yang remarked.

Chinese analysts warned that Canada may become just a pawn in a much broader political game by continuing to obey the US. Instead, it should pursue independent diplomacy with China.

Song Fuxin, a lawyer at Guangdong Guangxin Junda Law Firm who has participated in several extradition cases, told the Global Times on Thursday that the US' accusations that Meng committed fraud in connection with US sanctions against Iran had a political purpose, which according to international convention cannot be a reason for extradition.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland scolded the US on Wednesday, saying that any decision to extradite Meng would be based on the rule of law and not the political objectives of any foreign country, the CBC News reported on Wednesday.

"Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice," Freeland said at a press conference in Ottawa.

"Even if the Canadian court supports the US' request, the decision to extradite Meng has to be reviewed by the Canadian Department of Justice, and could give China an opportunity to negotiate with the department to not grant extradition but release Meng," Song said.

A hand of cards

Meng's case has overturned Chinese people's long-established understanding of Canada as a friendly country with an independent judicial system, and the result was that Canada's relations with China will be severely affected in fields like trade and cultural exchange, Yang said.

Meanwhile, Chinese consumers seem to have already kicked off a boycott of Canadian goods with the popular Canada Goose brand hit first. Chinese consumers interviewed by the Global Times said they are unwilling to buy its products because of Meng's arrest.

Chinese analysts warned that China has a full deck of cards it could use to exert pressure on Canada in order to ensure the release of Meng.

China could restrict imports of Canadian wood and mineral resources and suspend or simply canceling Chinese invested projects in Canada, Song Guoyou, director of the Center for Economic Diplomacy of Fudan University, told the Global Times.

Bilateral trade between China and Canada reached C$46.6 billion ($35 billion) in the first half of 2018 and China remains the second largest trading partner to Canada, according to data released on the website of China's Ministry of Commerce in August.

Canada's main export commodities to China are wood, oil seeds, ores, and automotive products, according to the Canadian government's website.

Limiting tourism, people-to-people cultural exchanges could be another way China could use to penalize Canada, Song said.

China could also use laws and regulations in fields like national security and taxes to punish Canadian enterprises and individuals in China, he said.

This year also marks the China-Canada Tourism Year, and mutual visits hit over 1.5 million person times in 2017, a new historical record, the Xinhua News Agency reported on March 22.

Experts said that all those measures could severely hurt the Canadian economy and ultimately it's the Canadian residents who would take the hit.

blog comments powered by Disqus