Third Canadian arrested in China as Huawei diplomatic rows continue

A third Canadian citizen has been detained in China following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. 

A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said on Tuesday that they are “aware of a Canadian citizen” who has been taken into custody in China.

An anonymous official later briefed that the department had "reason to believe that this case is linked to other recent cases of Canadians detained in China"

Nevertheless there was speculation that the move was retaliation for the arrest of Ms Meng, who is facing extradition to the US.

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

"One detention is bad enough. Two is terrible. Three underlines how ruthless China can be," he told AFP.

Ms Meng’s arrest has been seen as politically motivated as it comes amid hightened security tensions between the US and China, and accusations that Huawei is a vehicle for state spying.

Canada declined to name the latest person arrested or provide further details, citing a national privacy act.

However, the National Post, which first reported the story on Wednesday, cited third-party sources who apparently spoke to the family of the person arrested and confirmed they are neither a diplomat nor an entrepreneur working in China.

Hua Chunying, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, denied any knowledge of the latest arrest in a daily press briefing in Beijing this morning.

Two other Canadians — former diplomat and current advocacy group advisor Michael Kovrig, and businessman Michael Spavor — were arrested in China last week on charges of endangering the country’s national security. 

Beijing has not said if the two arrests were made in retaliation for Meng’s detention, and the Canadian government has stressed that there is no explicit link between the cases.

However, Western diplomats in Beijing and commentators have called the move “tit-for-tat” reprisals. 

Adrian Zenz, an independent China researcher, told The Telegraph: “This [the third arrest] indicates that China is willing to escalate this delicate situation even further, and shows how important Huawei as a company is for the Chinese state.

"Beijing is very concerned that Huawei’s reputation in the West will deteriorate further. Also, China has been increasingly bold in its stance towards Western governments, notably in its strong rebuttal of a request of 15 diplomats to visit the re-education camps in Xinjiang.

"Beijing’s willingness to arbitrarily detain Canadian citizens in order to put pressure on Ottawa is in line with this new approach to the West, which is increasingly characterised by a use of sharp power instead of soft power.”

The relationship between Ottawa and Beijing has become evermore important amid the ongoing trade war between China and the US, but news of a third arrest will heighten tensions further.

After Ms Meng was detained China’s government and state-run media said Canada would face serious consequences, putting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hopes for free trade talks in jeopardy. 

Mr Trudeau’s government has been under pressure to bar Huawei, one of the world’s leading mobile technology giants, from developing a 5G network in Canada due to cyber security and espionage concerns. The UK government and universities are also facing questions over contracts involving Huawei hardware.

Ms Meng, who is accused by US prosecutors of putting multinational banks at risk by misleading them into trading with Iran in violation of US sanctions, was released on December 12 on C$10m (£6m) bail, but will return to court next year to face further legal proceedings.

The 46-year-old, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, denies the charges.

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