Canada says third citizen detained in China amid diplomatic row

Recent detentions raise suspicion Beijing is holding Canadians in retaliation for Huawei executive's December 1 arrest.

    Huawei's Meng was released on bail last week pending a US extradition hearing on US fraud charges [File: Reuters]
    Huawei's Meng was released on bail last week pending a US extradition hearing on US fraud charges [File: Reuters]

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

    "Global Affairs Canada is aware of a Canadian citizen detained in China," ministry spokeswoman Maegan Graveline said in a statement, without providing further details, on Wednesday.

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    The incident does not appear to be linked to the arrest of two other citizens over the past week, a Canadian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters news agency.

    Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing she had "not heard" about the detention first reported by Canada's National Post newspaper.

    The recent detentions of Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat and Michael Spavor, a Canadian entrepreneur, have raised suspicion that Beijing is holding them in retaliation for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou's December 1 arrest.

    Former Canadian diplomats have said they believed the detentions were a "tit-for-tat" reprisal by China, however, no link has officially been made between the cases.

    US fraud charges

    Meng was released on bail last week in Vancouver pending a US extradition hearing on fraud charges in the United States related to alleged sanctions-breaking business dealings with Iran. 

    China has accused the other Canadian detainees of activities "that endanger China's national security".  They were both detained earlier in December.

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    Kovrig took an unpaid leave from his diplomatic post last year to work as a Hong Kong-based senior adviser at the International Crisis Group think-tank, while 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 Meng was 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.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies