Up to 200 Canadians currently detained in China, could be used in political bargaining

Federal sources told The Toronto Star hundreds are currently held by authorities

  2436
Tian'anmen Square, Beijing

Tian'anmen Square, Beijing (By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) —Around 200 Canadian nationals are currently under detention in China, which raises the stakes for the Trudeau administration in its ongoing battle with Beijing, Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star reports.

Canada is currently embroiled in a saga that began with Canadian authorities arresting the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies on an extradition request from the U.S. Canadian federal sources revealed to The Toronto Star that as many as 200 nationals are currently incarcerated in China, sparking fears they could be used as political pawns.

Sources also told the newspaper that up to three arrests per week is common in China for Canadian nationals involved in drunken debacles, drug use and visa issues, but arrests on political grounds are not as common. A vast number of those arrested are usually Canadian-Chinese dual citizens.

Since Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s arrest, China has detained three Canadian citizens in what law professor Donald Clarke described in The Washington Post as a “hostage-taking” act. China’s foreign ministry indicated the third arrest was due to illegal employment and entirely unrelated to the first two.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were both taken into Chinese custody earlier this month for “harming national security.” Canadian consular services have since been allowed to visit the detainees.

While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially stayed quiet on the matter, encouraging others not to “amplify” consular affairs, the state has now joined the U.S. and the E.U. in demanding the release of the two political prisoners.

This does not mark the first time China has held Canadian nations as political pawns. A couple were arrested in 2014 in what they believe was an attempt to prevent Canada extraditing a Chinese spy to the U.S.