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Diplomacy

China says Canada has ignited ‘public anger’ with arrest of Huawei’s Sabrina Meng

  • Beijing says Chinese tech executive was ‘wrongly detained’, as Ottawa’s efforts continue for the release of two Canadians held in China
PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2018, 10:47pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 3:42am

Beijing on Friday continued to vent its fury at Canada over the arrest of Chinese tech executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou at the request of the US, saying it has caused “public anger” in China.

Meanwhile, Canada said it had raised the case of detained businessman Michael Spavor “directly with the Chinese authorities”, as efforts continue for his release and that of former diplomat Michael Kovrig – both of whom are being investigated by China’s intelligence agency for allegedly endangering national security.

Spavor and Kovrig were detained in China after Meng, the chief financial officer of telecoms firm Huawei Technologies, was arrested at Vancouver airport on December 1 while she was on her way from Hong Kong to Mexico. Beijing has not said directly whether the cases are connected.

“The Canadian government, at the request of the US side, wrongly detained this Chinese citizen,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. “This action has aroused public anger in China.”

The decision to arrest Meng to aid a US extradition effort has made Canada the focus of China’s ire, even as US President Donald Trump’s trade war sits at the centre of the dispute. Chinese consumers have called for Canadian goods to be boycotted, iPhones to be thrown away and Huawei handsets bought instead.

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A Canadian judge released Meng on bail on Tuesday, but the case has set off a diplomatic furore among the three nations – with Canada caught in the middle.

China on Thursday announced the investigation against Spavor by the state security bureau of Dandong city, which borders North Korea.

“We have raised this case directly with the Chinese authorities,” the Canadian government said late on Thursday in response to a query from the South China Morning Post, without elaborating.

“[We] will continue to speak with the Chinese government. We are providing consular assistance to the family,” it added.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan were set to meet their US counterparts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis in Washington on Friday. Freeland and Sajjan were expected to raise their concerns over China’s detention of the two Canadians during the meeting.

Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye on Thursday called the arrest of Meng a “premeditated political action” orchestrated by the US government, linking the issue with its arrest of Spavor and increasing the pressure on Canada.

“Those who accuse China of detaining some person in retaliation for the arrest of Ms Meng should first reflect on the actions of the Canadian side. It is both ignominious and hypocritical to revile China with double standards,” Lu said in an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail.

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Canada has had a relatively good relationship with China over the past few decades – China is now Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the US, and its investment has powered real estate booms in Vancouver and Toronto.

One-third of international students in Canada are Chinese. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also talked about a possible free-trade agreement with China in a bid to diversify Canada’s trade, which relies on the US for 75 per cent of its exports.

Sean King, a former US diplomat who is now senior vice-president of political strategy firm Park Strategies, said Beijing’s actions could be “a signal to other countries not to stand by Washington in similar situations”.

He added that this “might turn out to be Canada’s own THAAD moment in how it views mainland Chinese policies”, referring to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system.

South Korean firms came under enormous pressure from China after Seoul deployed the US military’s anti-missile system in Seongju county.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and Bloomberg