Canada says 13 citizens detained in China after Huawei CFO arrested in Toronto

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A man walks past flags of Canada and China in front of Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, 21 October 2003, hoisted ahead of a four-day official visit by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Canada said on Thursday that 13 of its citizens have been detained in China since Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested last month in Vancouver at the request of the United States.

“At least” eight of those 13 have since been released, a Canadian government statement said, without disclosing what charges if any have been laid.

Prior to Thursday’s statement, detention of only three Canadian citizens had been publicly disclosed. Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China have escalated since Meng’s arrest on Dec. 1.

The Canadian government has said several times it sees no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Canadian citizens. But Beijing-based Western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believe the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.

Meng was released on a 10 million Canadian dollars ($7.4 million) bail on Dec. 11 and is now living in one of her two multi-million-dollar Vancouver homes as she fights extradition to the United States. The 46-year-old executive must wear an ankle monitor and stay at home from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The 13 Canadians detained include Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor and Sarah McIver, a Canadian government official who declined to be identified, said on Thursday.

McIver, a teacher, has since been released and returned to Canada. Kovrig and Spavor remain in custody. Canadian consular officials saw them once each in mid-December.

Overall, there are about 200 Canadians who have been detained in China for a variety of alleged infractions who continue to face on-going legal proceedings. “This number has remained relatively stable,” the official said.

In comparison, there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the United States, the official added.