Beijing continued its habit of detaining Canadian citizens this week as the political fallout from the arrest of a Huawei executive in Vancouver shows no signs of abating.

This is the third case of a Canadian citizen detained in China following the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on December 1.

Canada’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the detention of schoolteacher Sarah McIver, but declined to offer further details other than saying it was providing assistance to the family, The Globe and Mail reported.

The ministry said there was no reason to believe this particular case is linked to the previous two detentions, which were widely seen as a response to Meng’s arrest.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said later the detention of McIver, who comes from Alberta in western Canada, did not appear to be further retaliation over the arrest of Meng.

Trudeau, who spoke to reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday local time, saying details obtained so far suggested her case was more of a routine matter and different from the detentions of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on December 10.

Sarah McIver
McIver. (Facebook)

McIver, who has previously taught in South Korea and Malaysia, allegedly flew to China recently but found the position she was promised at a school there had been given to someone else, according to the Calgary Herald.

It was not known where she was detained, but family and officials believed she may lack a proper work visa. Arrangements were allegedly being made for her return to Canada, sources told the paper.

Previous incidents

China has in the past detained Canadians when Ottawa cooperates with US extradition requests, as it did in 2014 when a Chinese businessman, Su Bin, was arrested in Canada on US espionage charges. Kevin and Julia Garratt were detained in China at the time and held for more than two years in the case of former.

Under an extradition treaty Canada has with the US, it is obligated to comply with a request as long as the alleged infraction is a crime in both countries.

In the case of Su, the detention of the Garratts did not prevent his extradition, which was ordered by a Canadian judge before he pled guilty to charges in a US court in 2016. If it was indeed a response to Canada’s cooperation with US law-enforcement agencies, then it also was not a successful deterrent for further actions, as evidenced by Meng’s arrest.

While Beijing has not directly linked the detentions to Meng’s case, the Chinese government has made clear that it considers her arrest to be a purely political decision and threatened “consequences” should Canada not release her.

“The detention of Ms Meng is not a mere judicial case, but a premeditated political action in which the United States wields its regime power to witch-hunt a Chinese high-tech company out of political consideration,” Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye wrote in an op-ed in The Globe and Mail. “The reason behind all the bullying behaviors of the United States is that it pursues power politics against other countries relying on its huge advantage in national strength.”

Chinese state media have also repeatedly decried the action as a violation of human rights.

Meng is now staying at a personal residence in Vancouver with her family, where she is awaiting court proceedings that will decide whether she is extradited to the US.