A Canadian citizen and former diplomat has been detained in China, raising speculation that Beijing is retaliating over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who is currently being held in Vancouver.
Meng was picked up by Canadian law enforcement last week at the request of U.S. authorities, who have demanded she be extradited to America on fraud charges related to possible violations of sanctions against Iran.
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Chinese officials have demanded the release of Meng, who was arrested while attempting to switch flights in Vancouver on Dec. 1. The South China Morning Post reported that over the weekend, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng threatened Ottawa with "grave consequences" over the Huawei executive's continued detainment.
According to Reuters, China's top diplomat, State Councilor Wang Yi, said on state television Tuesday, "For any bullying that wantonly violates the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens, China will never sit idly by."
The country's foreign ministry also criticized Canada for not promptly notifying Beijing of Meng's arrest.
The same day, Canadian authorities acknowledged that one of their citizens had been detained in China, but stopped short of saying the arrest was a tit-for-tat over Meng being held. However, Canada's former ambassador to China noted to the media, "In China there are no coincidences. ... If they want to send you a message, they will send you a message."
Brussels-based International Crisis Group confirmed it had received reports that the organization's North East Asia senior adviser, Michael Kovrig, is the Canadian citizen being held by Chinese authorities. Kovrig previously worked with Canada's Foreign Affairs Ministry and was posted in Hong Kong and Beijing between 2012 and 2016, the BBC reported.
Meng is accused of misleading multinational banks about Huawei's connections to a firm operating in Iran, which allegedly placed the lenders at risk of violating U.S. sanctions. If found guilty on the conspiracy and fraud charges, she could face up to 30 years in prison.
A third bail hearing for Meng is slated for Tuesday in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, according to the BBC. Canadian prosecutors consider Meng a flight risk and have asked that the wealthy executive be denied bail. In the meantime, her husband has offered $11 million in cash along with the couple's two homes in Canada as surety for Meng's release.