Two weeks that tension is rising between China and Canada. Following the arrest on December 1 of one of China’s Huawei leaders in China, Chinese authorities arrested two Canadian nationals in the country. On the one hand, suspicions of fraud on the part of the United States and on the other side of the “threats of state security”, the two cases could have no connection. And yet, China’s threats and silences to Canadian authorities indicate very strongly retaliation. To unravel this case, L’Express returns to the successive events of the past two weeks.
The Arrest of Meng Wanzhou
On December 1, Huawei’s chief financial officer, in transit between flights, was arrested at the Vancouver airport upon US demand. Meng Wanzhou is also the daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecom giant, which US intelligence agencies report as linked to the Chinese government. She is suspected of fraud to circumvent the American sanctions against Iran, and the American justice demands its extradition. According to the Canadian media La Presse , this request could take months or even years to be executed, but the Chinese leader incurs more than 30 years in prison in the United States.
China, however, does not hear it that way. The Chinese government accuses Canada of not informing the Chinese consulate immediately, which is a violation of the bilateral agreement between the two countries. Upon the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Beijing threatens Ottawa with “grave consequences” if it does not immediately release and summons successively the ambassadors of Canada and the United States.
On Tuesday, December 11, while Minister Wang Yi denounces the conditions of detention of the Chinese leader, who suffers from health problems including high blood pressure, he announced that “China will never remain idle in the face of ill-treatment. arbitrarily undermine the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens “.
On the same day, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirms the arrest in China of a Canadian national, which took place the day before. This is Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat who has worked for the Canadian Embassy in Beijing and works in Hong Kong for the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG). He is a specialist in foreign policy and security issues, particularly on the Korean peninsula.
For some international experts, the link between the arrest of Meng Wanzhou and Michael Kovrig is obvious. It has “no coincidence,” says former ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques, for whom Beijing is trying to pressure Ottawa. Especially since the Chinese authorities do not immediately give the reasons for the arrest of Michael Kovrig, and communicate their information only dropper. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry only implies that the arrest could be linked to the activities of the NGO in which Michael Kovrig works. The organization would not have correctly declared its activities in China, while the law is very strict for foreign NGOs.
Donald Trump Tries to Reassure
In this already tense affair, Donald Trump intervenes like a hair in the soup. The day of the announcement of the arrest of Michael Kovrig in China, he tries to calm the game by saying that he could pass over the US justice and intervene in the case of Meng Wanzhou, to preserve the negotiations between China and the United States . “All that is good for this country, I would do it,” he told Reuters, adding that the planned deal with China “will certainly be the largest trade agreement ever concluded.”
But Justin Trudeau brushes off these statements by reaffirming Canada’s commitment to the rule of law. “Whatever happens in other countries, Canada will always be a country that respects the law,” he told reporters.
Meng Wanzhou released on Bail
On Wednesday, December 12, Meng Wanzhou is released on bail for 6.6 million euros. She must return her two passports, stay in one of her two Vancouver residences, wear an electronic anklet, be constantly monitored and limit her movements in the Vancouver area, says the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail . His first extradition hearing was scheduled for 6 February.
During the day, however, Canada is concerned about the disappearance of another of its nationals in China. He contacted Canadian diplomacy after being questioned by the Chinese authorities, and the Chinese authorities have not heard from him since.
Second Canadian Arrested
The answer to Canadian questions fell on Thursday. China has confirmed that the missing Canadian, Michael Spavor, was arrested, along with his compatriot Michael Kovrig, on suspicion of “activities threatening his national security”. The Government indicates that it has taken “coercive measures” against them.
Michael Spavor is an entrepreneur who helps organize trips to North Korea. He made his name by helping former American basketball player Dennis Rodman travel to Pyongyang in 2013 and 2014. He himself met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to official North Korean media photos. A media source in the provincial government of Liaoning, where the Canadian lives, said Michael Spavor was “investigated” by the Dandong (Liaoning) office of the Ministry of State Security.