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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 January 2019

Third Canadian detained in China amid diplomatic spat

It is still unclear if the detention is linked to Canada arresting a Huawei executive this month

Michael Spavor, a business consultant, is among those arrested in China. AFP
Michael Spavor, a business consultant, is among those arrested in China. AFP

A third Canadian citizen has been detained in China, a Canadian newspaper reported on Wednesday, amid a diplomatic spat between Beijing and Ottawa over the arrest of a Chinese telecom executive.

Canada's foreign ministry said it was "aware of a Canadian citizen" having been detained, according to the National Post, which cited a ministry spokesperson.

The spokesperson did not provide details and did not suggest that the detention was linked to the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the report said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press conference that she had "not heard" about the reported detention.

The recent detentions of two Canadians has raised suspicions that Beijing is holding them in retaliation for Ms Meng's arrest on December 1, although no link has officially been made between the cases.

Ms Meng was released on bail last week in Vancouver pending a US extradition hearing on US fraud charges related to allegations of sanctions-breaking business dealings with Iran.

China has accused the other detainees — former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and China-based business consultant Michael Spavor — of activities "that endanger China's national security".

They were both detained on December 10.

Mr Kovrig is a Hong Kong-based senior adviser at the International Crisis Group think tank, while Mr Spavor facilitates trips to North Korea and helped former NBA star Dennis Rodman travel to the neighbouring country.

Beijing has threatened Canada with "grave consequences" if Ms Meng is not freed and Chinese state-run media has lashed out at the arrest, saying it was politically motivated.

Ottawa has repeatedly said the arrest was not political but rather a judicial process in keeping with an extradition treaty with Washington.

US President Donald Trump said he would consider intervening in the case against Huawei's chief financial officer if it meant Washington could extract concessions from China and secure a trade deal with Beijing.

“If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Mr Trump said.

Huawei's chief financial officerwas granted bail by a Canadian court on Tuesday, but only after four former colleagues, friends and her husband pledged C$10 million (Dh27m) to support her bail request. Her previous request to be released on bail was rejected as she was deemed a flight risk. As part of the agreement with the court, Ms Meng, who cried as the decision was read out, must wear an ankle monitor that tracks her movements and hand over her Chinese and Hong Kong passports.

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