China detains third Canadian as diplomatic spat escalates
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China detains third Canadian as diplomatic spat escalates

A THIRD Canadian citizen has been detained by China fuelling speculation Beijing is using Canada to exert pressure on the United States to relent on legal charges against one of China’s leading technology companies.

Chinese security agencies detained two other Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, on Dec 10. Chinese officials have suggested in public comments that the agencies are looking into potential national security charges against the pair.

Kovrig’ and Spavor’s arrest quickly followed the detainment of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Dec 8.

The United States wants to try Meng over allegations she covered up links to a subsidiary doing business with Iran, effectively breaching US sanctions.

SEE ALSO: Could the Huawei arrest threaten Trump’s trade truce?

China has denied any wrongdoing and appeared to arrest Kovrig and Spavor in direct retaliation to the arrest of the head of one of China’s biggest tech giants.

On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the press the arrest of a third Canadian – name currently unknown – does not appear to be related.

“The others arrested … were accused of serious crimes, problems regarding national security, intelligence, so those cases are more serious… We’re currently looking at them,” Trudeau said, as reported by CBC News.

“We’ve only got the preliminary indications … that it’s not linked to a matter of national security for the Chinese. The two situations are very different. The allegations of national security problems, even objectively, are very different from a routine case or a problem with a visa or something of that nature.”

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) and Meng Wanzhou, Executive Board Director of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, attend a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum “Russia Calling!” in Moscow, Russia October 2, 2014. Picture taken October 2, 2014. Source: Reuters/Alexander Bibik

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said at a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing on Wednesday that the ministry had no information on the case.

According to the Guardian, Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, met Spavor on Monday, and had previously visited Kovrig.

Beijing has threatened Canada with “grave consequences” if Meng is not freed.

SEE ALSO: Are Huawei and ZTE really a national security risk?

Trudeau has stopped short of picking up the phone and calling Chinese President Xi Jinping, claiming it is “a lot more complicated” than that. He did, however, warn that political strong-arming on the part of Beijing would be counterproductive.

“Escalation and political posturing might be satisfactory in the short term to make yourself seem like you are stomping on the table and doing something significant, but it may not contribute to the outcome we all want,” he said.

Meng is out on bail now. A court is expected to rule whether Canada will extradite her to the United States.