In Depth

China: 13 Canadians held in ‘tit-for-tat’ detentions

Tensions have been rising since arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last month

Canada has announced that at least 13 of its citizens have been detained in China since a Chinese CEO was arrested in Vancouver last month.

In a statement released Thursday, the Canadian government said “at least” eight of its detained nationals have since been released, but did not reveal if any charges had been laid, Reuters reports.

The spate of detentions began shortly after Canadian authorities arrested Huawei chief Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on 1 December, at the request of US authorities, over alleged violations of sanctions.

Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China rapidly escalated, with Beijing warning of “serious consequences” for Meng’s “unreasonable, merciless and very evil” detention.

The first two Canadians to be arrested were Michael Kovrig, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, and businessman Michael Spavor, both on charges of “endangering national security”.

Ottawa has not explicitly linked any of the recent detentions to that of the Huawei boss, but Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador to China, has hinted at a connection, The Guardian reports.

“In China there are no coincidences,” Saint-Jacques said. “In this case it is clear the Chinese government wants to put maximum pressure on the Canadian government.”

However, Jessica Chen Weiss, a China expert at New York’s Cornell University, told the Financial Times that “taking aim at smaller targets is, ironically, a positive sign that Beijing does not want the Huawei arrest to derail the truce in US-China trade tensions”.

Roland Paris, professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa, added: “I think as tensions grow there is a risk Canada gets caught in the middle of the US and China.”

Meng was released on a C$10m (£5.9m) bail on 11 December and is “living in one of her two multimillion-dollar Vancouver homes as she fights extradition to the United States”, Reuters reports.

“The 46-year-old executive must wear an ankle monitor and stay at home from 11pm to 6am” the news site adds.

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