The United States will help achieve the release of two Canadian nationals detained in China as tensions among the three countries rise amid the arrest – at the US’ request – of Huawei CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver، US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday، South China Morning Post reported. Calling the Canadians’ arrests unlawful، Pompeo said: “We ask all nations of the world to treat other citizens properly، and the detention of these two Canadian citizens in China ought to end.”
Meng was arrested at the US’ behest on December 1 over allegations she committed financial fraud with the aim of skirting US sanctions on sales to Iran. Chinese authorities seized the two Canadians this week for allegedly “endangering national security”.
One، former diplomat Michael Kovrig، was held on Monday night by Beijing’s state security bureau. In the days since his arrest، the foreign ministry has said Kovrig، now a senior adviser with the International Crisis Group، might have also broken China’s NGO law if he did work for the group while in the country. On Thursday، authorities confirmed that a second Canadian national، businessman Michael Spavor، had been detained by Liaoning’s provincial state security bureau.
A North Korea specialist، Spavor once met leader Kim Jong-un and runs an NGO that arranges cultural exchanges with the hermit kingdom. Pompeo said the detention of nationals abroad was something that “weighs on those of us who serve to try to make sure that our citizens do have the opportunity to return home to their families”.
“We always believe in that، we’ll always work on it، and we’ll do it in this case as well،” he said. Pompeo spoke at a press conference in Washington with his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland، Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and US Defence Secretary James Mattis.
Before the two Canadians’ detention، China’s vice-foreign minister Le Yucheng had warned Ottawa that it would face “grave consequences” if it did not release Meng، fuelling suspicion that the recent arrests were punitive in nature. Yet a Thursday editorial in China Daily، the Communist Party’s foreign-facing mouthpiece newspaper، rejected claims that the recent arrests were retaliatory.
“Washington naturally assumes the compulsory measures Beijing has taken are politically motivated – an expedient move on Beijing’s part to retaliate against Ottawa – since that is how [Washington] operates،” the editorial said. Freeland said that in conversations with the Canadian government، Chinese officials، including China’s ambassador to Canada، Lu Shaye، did not connect the different issues.
“From Canada’s perspective، these kinds of issues ought never to be confused with one another،” she said.