Beijing threatens Canada of ‘grave consequences' over Huawei executive's arrest
December 9, 2018 01:27 PM NPT
Photo Courtesy: Agencies
BEIJING, Dec 9: China has ratcheted up the pressure on Canada to release the detained executive of Huawei Technologies over the weekend by threatening “grave consequences” and accusing Canada of “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people”, escalating the case into one of the worst diplomatic rows between Beijing and Ottawa.
Chinese foreign vice-minister Le Yucheng on Saturday summoned Canadian ambassador John McCallum to lodge a “strong protest” against the arrest of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver and urged Ottawa to release Meng immediately, according to a brief foreign ministry statement.
Meng, the chief financial officer at Huawei and a daughter of the Chinese telecom giant’s founder, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1 and faces extradition to the United States, which alleges that she covered up her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran in defiance of sanctions.
The arrest of Meng in Canada, which took place on the same night that Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump dined together in Buenos Aires, has infuriated Beijing.
The official Xinhua news agency published an editorial on Sunday morning condemning the arrest as an “extremely nasty” act that had caused “serious damage to Sino-Canada relations”.
“According to the words of the Canadian leader, he had known of the action in advance,” Xinhua said, referring to the fact that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – whom it did not did name directly – had a few days’ notice of the arrest.
“But he didn’t notify the Chinese side. Instead, he let this kind of nasty thing to happen and assisted the US side’s unilateral hegemonic behaviour – this has hurt the feeling of Chinese people,” Xinhua added.
The last time that Beijing called Canada of hurting the feelings of the Chinese people was more than a decade earlier in 2007 when the then prime minister Stephen Harper hosted the Dalai Lama.
People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, published a similarly strongly worded statement, condemning Canada for arresting Meng and threatening to take action against Ottawa if Meng is not released.
“The Canadian side must realise clearly that there’s no vagueness between justice and arbitrariness,” the People’s Daily editorial reads.
“The Canadian side must correct its wrongs and immediately stop its infringement of the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese citizen to give the Chinese people a right answer so that it can avoid paying a dear price.”
The joint condemnation by China’s foreign ministry, Xinhua and the People’s Daily against Ottawa is an unusual step, reflecting how seriously Beijing is taking the case and its determination to set Meng free.
While China did not specify what action it would take to inflict pains on Canada, the harsh wording suggests that it has plans to retaliate.
These could range from the freezing of diplomatic exchanges to the suspension of trade and would be likely to be set in motion if Meng is extradited to the US.
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, told Reuters on Friday that there will probably be “a deep freeze with the Chinese in high-level visits and exchanges”.
“The ability to talk about free trade will be put in the ice box for a while. But we’re going to have to live with that. That’s the price of dealing with a country like China,” Mulroney was quoted as saying.
Shi Yinhong, director of Renmin University’s Centre for American Studies and an adviser to the State Council, said that the Meng incident put China in a bind between the need to show it can protect its business people abroad without spooking other advanced industrial nations with a strong response against Canada.
“China is concerned that in the future more of its important people abroad will be seen as a threat, and that their safety will become an issue.”
“On the other hand, especially in the context of the comprehensive tension between Beijing and Washington, China has an interest to maintain and improve relations with other advanced industrial countries.
“If China takes a very strong revenge against Canada, it will hurt these relations. This is a dilemma, and it is difficult to predict what will happen.”
Adam Austen, a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said Saturday there is “nothing to add beyond what the minister said yesterday”.
Freeland told reporters on Friday that the relationship with China was important and valued, and Canada’s ambassador in Beijing has assured the Chinese that consular access will be provided to Meng.
A court hearing over whether Meng should be bailed will continue on Monday.