China-Canada: Huawei detention fallout

China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 in what appears to be retaliation for the detention of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant.

Canada has formally demanded the release of the two Canadian citizens. “We are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of two Canadians earlier this month and call for their immediate release,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, was detained along with Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor under allegations of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security [of China],” according to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang. The arrests were made nine days after the jailing of Wanzhou, who was taken into custody at the behest of the United States for allegedly misleading banks on the company’s dealings with Iran and skirting U.S. sanctions through the use of a subsidy.

The Chinese state-owned Global Times vowed that Canada would “pay for its bad behavior.

Canadian business professor Ian Lee from Carleton University explains Canada will in fact “be on the losing end” of the dispute in regards to trade relations. “There’s a very clear freeze on the Chinese side,” he said. “It’s not going to be business as usual…It’s going to be front and center of Canadian-Chinese relations until we resolve it and until she is released into the hands of the Chinese authorities.” Lee believes the only way to salvage relations with China is through the release of Wanzhou after “the suitable face-saving announcements have been made by the three parties.”

The U.S., UK and EU have rallied in support of Canada’s demands for release, each of which have issued statements to the Chinese government. The EU expressed concern over the declared motive behind the detention of the Canadians and called on Chinese authorities to employ fairness and transparency in trying the two detainees.

Trusting Canada will treat Wanzhou justly, Robert Palladino, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department stated, “Canada, a country governed by the rule of law, is conducting a fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding with respect to Ms. Meng Wanzhou. Canada respects its international legal commitments by honouring its extradition treaty with the United States.” He added, “We also express our deep concern for the Chinese Government’s detention of two Canadians earlier this month and call for their immediate release.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded by calling the UK and EU out on hypocrisy. “Where were they when the Canadian side illegally detained Chinese business executives at the request of the U.S.?” and that the countries have “different human rights standards for citizens of different countries,” as quoted by The Guardian.