China and Canada : rising tensions

Translated by Natacha Perrin, Proofread by Amel Attatfa

On December 2018, Canadian authorities arrest Huawei number two, Meng Wenzhou, in Canada. The following days, China, with whom diplomatic relations have been deteriorating over the years, put two Canadians on remand. On June 19th, 2020, China formally charges them with spying. Is it revenge of mere tensions between the two countries?

On December 1st, 2018, the United States of America (USA) ask Canada to arrest Huawei number two: Meng Wenzhou. She is accused of circumventing the US sanctions imposed on Iran by establishing a financial network specifically for that purpose. She is released on bail on December 12th, 2018. She is waiting for her hearing that might take place in the US. This is about a commercial battle between China and the US; a battle in which Canada ends up implicated and sustains damages.

Internationally, the US foreign policy becomes the norm. The country asks for Meng Wanzhou’s extradition. Richard Peck, one of her lawyers, estimates that this case is “unusual” and “unique” since Canadian Police and border services made an abuse of process during her arrest. An action that did not go unnoticed in China: 9 days later, the Chinese authorities arrest two Canadian people on its territory. Michael Krovig, former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, businessman, have been both incarcerated in a rudimentary prison ever since.

While Meng Wanzhou is no longer in prison, the two Canadians still are. On June 19th, they have been formally charged with spying. This case is on the increase. Western experts regard this case as a “revenge”, a reprisal. China denies these accusations. According to Canadian legal expert, Louise Arbour on Radio Canada, Canadian justice could suspend Meng Wanzhou’s extradition procedure to ease its citizens’ release. These two men’s faith is uncertain. Will they soon get out of jail? Are they really guilty of intelligence? It is certain, on the other hand, that tensions between these countries are increasing.

Canada and China: a potential reconciliation?

In January, a parliamentary committee is formed to discuss a potential reconciliation with China. In spite of the talks, the conflict is still in the news. Both Micheal’s indictment warns Canada. While Meng Wanzhou only has an electronic tag, Micheal Krovig and Micheal Spavor are locked up, without any contact with their family or lawyers. They are allowed to only speak to embassy’s representative once a month, for half an hour. Wanzhou that says she gets time to read books and finish her paintings. Conversely, both Micheal, separated from one another, that have no access to books and only get a 15-minute walk per day.

The two men’s hostile conditions worry the country on the hope of a potential release. Louise Arbour states that Canadian justice might and have to stop Meng Wanzhou’s extradition procedure if it wants the two Canadians to be freed. This might also lead to a diminution of the tensions. But what is justice doing? The US also are worried about these two men. Mike Pompeo, American diplomacy’s leader, said: “The United States stands with Canada in calling on Beijing for the immediate release of the two men and rejects the use of these unjustified detentions to coerce Canada”.

This indictment occurred a few days after China’s request to immediately release Meng Wanzhou. On June 19th, during a press review, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau shows its disappointment towards China. “We’re of course disappointed with the decision taken by the Chinese in the case of the two Michaels”. He promises, for example, to keep discussing with China and its allies while condemning this arbitrary detention.

(Translation of AFP’s tweet: “On the tarmac, Americans take cash out and pay three or four times more (than us) for the orders we made, so one’s must really fight back”, also regrets Jean Rottner, Grand-Est (French region) President.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said he is “worried” and asked to his services to investigate on masks ordered to China by Canada that would have been embezzled by the US.)

China versus the US: is Canada only a pawn?

While Canada-China’s relations are worsening, Huawei’s number two arrestation is the final straw. Canada and China have been cooperating for years, whether on trade, economy, or education. They exchange a great quantity of individuals each year to study or work.

Though, the US and China have been bickering for years. The US declared an “economic war” against Chinese firm Huawei. In spite of the sanctions, the firm sees its figure increase. An economical and trade conflict where Canada apparently got involved while its relations with China used to be good. For years, diplomatic leaders from both countries often met to discuss the best way to shape their relations.

(Trudeau’s tweet) Productive discussion with PM Li during the Canada-China annual dialogue: human rights, climatic changes, pollution’s reduction and tightening of our relations to create good jobs in both our countries.

Nowadays, despite dialogue, this relation reaches a critical state. Companies, students and workers keep moving. Still, diplomatic relations are in danger. China denies all form of intimidation towards Canada. The US pressure China so that it releases the two Canadians. Spying accusation are still on the table. According to China, Canadians disclosed “state secrets”.

Krovig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, thinks Ottawa should do more to free both Micheals. On June 23rd, she states: “Both of them are just pawns in a geopolitical game”. This term of “geopolitical game” is often coined by Western experts but denied by China. Canada has entered a conflict between the US and China; and that’s Micheal Krovig and Micheal Spavor that are paying the price. Some speak of an exchange of detainees. Nevertheless, the US completely refuse this plan. Meanwhile, both Micheals are in jail, in China, waiting full of hope, their return back home.

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