China is imprisoning innocent Canadians

Canada launches a diplomatic initiative against arbitrary arrests - China feels under attack

Canada launches a multinational initiative to pressure China to release two detained Canadians. China sees this as hypocrisy.

Canada is going on the offensive. The Canadian State Department has issued a declaration condemning the arbitrary detention of foreign nationals. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau believes that the declaration could help to stop the “illegal and immoral” imprisonment of citizens of a country by third countries. "By joining forces with other nations, we can put pressure on those countries that practice arbitrary arrests," Garneau said in a statement last week.

Although the declaration is not directed against any particular nation, several Canadian officials confirm that it is a move against China. Because Ottawa is in a violent dispute with Beijing. In December 2018, Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of tech giant Huawei, at Vancouver Airport. The arrest was due to an extradition request from the USA. They accuse her of fraud and violations of American sanctions against Iran.

Only a few days later, Beijing struck back and arrested two Canadians: former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor.

Leverage against China

Canada suspects a retaliatory strike by China behind the arrest of the two Michaels. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeatedly accused China of conducting hostage diplomacy. While Canada initially acted cautiously and tried to use the usual diplomatic channels to obtain the release of the detained Canadians, Trudeau's government is now on the offensive and publicly denounces China's policies.

In a press release, Foreign Minister Garneau wrote that it was illegal to abuse innocent people as diplomatic bargaining chips. Garneau demanded the immediate release of all those arbitrarily arrested. He relies on the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which explicitly forbids arbitrary arrests. Virtually all countries have acceded to the pact; China has signed it but never ratified it.

Garneau receives support from numerous countries. 58 nations, including the US, Japan, Australia and almost all EU member states, have signed Canada's Declaration against Arbitrary Detention.

China accuses Canada of hypocrisy

Canada wants to put China in an uncomfortable position and hopes to induce the great power to give in. But Beijing thinks little of the initiative. A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said last week that Canada's attempt to put pressure on China through “megaphone diplomacy” would end in a dead end. The spokesman accused Canada of hypocrisy. If the country really wants to crack down on arbitrary detention, the first thing it should do is release Meng Wanzhou.

But the delivery process for Meng Wanzhou is ongoing. Until it is completed, the Huawei manager has to wear a GPS tracker and spend the nights in one of her two villas in Vancouver. During the day, she is allowed to roam freely in the province of British Columbia and visit friends and family members. A Canadian court declined to relax the conditions. It feared that Meng could otherwise move to China. Negotiations will continue in March.

Extradition becomes more likely

Meng's lawyers believe the arrest is politically motivated. You are based on a statement by former American President Donald Trump. A few days after Meng's arrest, Trump told Reuters that he would intervene in the case of Huawei's chief financial officer if that would help sign a trade deal with China. Meng's lawyers alleged that Trump had "poisoned" the process.

So far the judges have not followed this line of argument. In addition, Trump is no longer in office and could therefore not influence the process if he wanted to.

The Canadian judges will decide whether Meng will be extradited by mid-May. If it comes to that, Meng has to answer to the American judiciary. As it became known in early December, Meng's lawyers were already negotiating with the US Department of Justice. According to a report in the "Wall Street Journal" Meng would be allowed to travel to China if she acknowledged parts of the allegations against her. The Canadian court has not yet responded to the rumors of such a deal. And Meng holds onto her innocence until now.