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The Chinese state is following through on its Huawei threats

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A second Canadian has reportedly been detained in China and is being questioned by state security, as Beijing appears to have come good on its earlier threats of “grave consequences” for Canada after the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou on December 1.

Canada’s The Globe and Mail and the Associated Press have identified the second person as the well-known Liaoning-based entrepreneur Michael Spavor.

The detention of Spavor and the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig within the space of a week is certain to have Canadian authorities taking notice.

“We are aware that a Canadian citizen, Mr. Michael Spavor, is presently missing in China,” Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Guillaume Berube told Canada’s Global News.

Canadian officials are trying to track Spavor who reportedly sought out the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday night.

Canada has since lost contact with the Dandong-based director of the Paektu Cultural Exchange. Calls from Business Insider to Paektu and to Spavor’s Jilin phone number on Thursday could not get through.

He brought Rodman to Kim

Former US basketball player Dennis Rodman (C) is surrounded by the media as he arrives at Beijing International Airport from North Korea on January 13, 2014. Rodman returned to China from Pyongyang after a seven-day trip where he sang ‘Happy birthday to you!’ to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on January 8.
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland said on Wednesday. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

Spavor, who runs a not-for-profit business assisting travel inside North Korea, is a relatively high-profile businessman out of Dandong, not far from the northern metropolis of Dalian, in Liaoning. He made headlines by linking up the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with former US basketball player Dennis Rodman in Pyongyang a few years back.

Canada-China relations have been tense since the detention of Meng, the daughter of the founder of Huawei Ren Zheng Fei.

Here’s the ‘heavy price’

Chinese police officers stand guard outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing on December 10, 2018. – China on December 10 protested Canada’s ‘inhumane’ treatment of an executive of telecom giant Huawei who is being held on a US extradition bid, following reports she was not getting sufficient medical care.
GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images

In the days that followed, State media came out swinging, The People’s Daily warned Canada to choose between “justice and willfulness,” saying that Canada must “stop violating the legal and reasonable rights of Chinese citizens and give an explanation to the Chinese people,” which may “forestall paying a heavy price.”

And from the Global Times, “China’s message to Canada is clear: Canada must correct its mistake and immediately stop violating her lawful rights and interests, as well as give the Chinese people a proper explanation for this disgusting and vile act made at the behest of the United States.

“Otherwise, as the Chinese side has warned, Canada will pay a heavy price.”

Read More: China is furious and global markets are in an uproar as the daughter of one of the country’s richest men languishes in a Canadian jail.

The detention of Spavor followed hot on the heels of the reported detention of ICG’s senior analyst and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing, Monday.

Kovrig is reportedly being questioned by the state security department in Beijing on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security,” according to the Beijing News, citing an unnamed government official.

At its regular press conference, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Wednesday said it officially has no idea what is going on regarding Kovrig.

“The Canadian citizen you asked about, detained in Beijing?” Lu said. “I have no information here that can be provided to you. If there is such a situation, please rest assured that the relevant Chinese authorities will handle the matter according to the law.”

The foreign ministry’s silence is an important beat in the Chinese government’s familiar hostage diplomacy or tit-for-tat diplomacy routine and does bring to mind the popular Chinese proverb — 此地无银三百兩 — one that literally means “no 300 taels of silver buried here.”

It comes from the story of a man who cunningly buried his life savings and then put up a big sign saying ‘no 300 bits of silver buried here.’

There is a message buried here somewhere

However, foreign ministry spokesman Lu did break with tradition in a slightly ominous note for Kovrig, suggesting on Wednesday that the ICG had not registered in China, suggesting the NGO founded by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans was in breach of one of China’s myriad laws on foreign non-governmental agencies operating inside China.

The escalating tit-for-tat from Beijing is the latest unspoken retaliation by Beijing for the arrest of Meng. Meng faces charges in relation to allegedly violating US sanctions on Iran and that she was a central figure in misleading banks and investors regarding a second company, possibly the Huawei subsidiary Skycom that was still making sales to Iran.

Meng posted bail in Vancouver and is now with her family there, according to a post Wednesday reportedly from her WeChat account.

Wechat

“I’m in Vancouver, by my family’s side. I’m proud of Huawei, and proud of my home country. Thanks to everyone who has been concerned about me. Meng Wanzhou,” the Wechat post read, alongside a Huawei advertisement featuring a ballerina’s training scars.

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