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Trudeau urges caution after third Canadian held in China

Published: Updated:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged caution on Wednesday and said he would not be “stomping on a table” after China detained a third Canadian amid a diplomatic dispute over the arrest of a Chinese technology executive.

The detentions of the Canadians - including one disclosed on Wednesday - followed the Dec. 1 arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.. The arrest was made at the request of the United States, which is engaged in a trade war with China.

Trudeau has been under pressure to take a more robust stand on the detentions, but said at a news conference: “Political posturing or political statements aren’t necessarily going to contribute. They might actually hinder Canadians’ release. We’re going to take every situation carefully and seriously.

“Canadians understand that even though political posturing might be satisfactory in the short term to make yourself ... feel like you’re stomping on a table and doing something significant, it may not directly contribute to the outcome we all want, which is for these Canadians to come home safely.”

Trudeau said he was asking China for more information on the detentions. No details have been given on the latest, but Trudeau said it was “a very separate case” from last week when former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were detained amid the diplomatic quarrel triggered by Meng’s arrest.

Visa complications

The National Post newspaper said the latest detainee was a Canadian woman who was teaching English in China and was held because of “visa complications.”

Huawei is the world’s biggest supplier of telecoms network equipment and second-biggest smartphone seller. The United States has been looking since at least 2016 into whether Huawei shipped US-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of US export and sanctions laws, Reuters reported in April.

The Canadian government has said several times it saw no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor. But Beijing-based Western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believed the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.

Bob Rae, Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar and a former Liberal Party leader, tweeted on Wednesday that “there are no coincidences” and said the detentions looked “too much like hostage taking.”