OTTAWA—A third Canadian citizen has been detained in China, the Canadian government has confirmed.
Maegan Graveline, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, issued a statement saying only the government “is aware of a Canadian citizen detained in China.”
She said consular officials are providing assistance to the family, and cited the Privacy Act, refusing to release further information.
But for now, the department is contending there is no reason to believe the case is linked to other recent cases of Canadians detained in China.
The development comes exactly a week after two other Canadians, including a former diplomat, were detained in moves Canada sees as acts of retaliation for the RCMP’s arrest of a Chinese executive at the request of U.S. justice authorities.
The newspaper said it could not confirm the identity of the detained citizen, but it cited “third-party sources who said they spoke to the family of the person” detained who suggested “the person is not a diplomatic official, nor an entrepreneur operating in China.”
The development is yet another disturbing twist in a rapidly evolving story that saw Canada arrest a high-profile Chinese executive of Huawei Technologies Meng Wanzhou, at the request of U.S. authorities seeking to extradite her. Meng is now out on a $10-million bail order, awaiting a formal extradition hearing at one of her two luxurious homes in Vancouver.
After the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng was publicly reported, China — which had threatened Canada with “grave consequences” if she wasn’t released — moved to arrest and detain two Canadian men.
They are former diplomat Michael Kovrig, on leave from Global Affairs to work for a non-governmental organization, and businessman Michael Spavor, who organized trips into North Korea, including for former NBA superstar Dennis Rodman.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called China’s detention of those two “unacceptable,” while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went further calling it “unlawful” and demanded their release.
Trudeau said: “China is reacting to the arrest of one of their citizens, but we are being absolutely clear on standing up for our citizens who’ve been detained, trying to figure out why, trying to work with China to demonstrate this is not acceptable,” he said.
The Canadian prime minister took a direct shot at China and the U.S. President Donald Trump, who suggested Meng might be released if he could get a better security or trade deal with China. He said Canada will follow the rule of law and due process.
On Monday, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, declined to provide further details about their condition or reasons for detention, repeating the line last week that they were detained “on suspicion of engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security.” She did not allude to the third Canadian in transcripts of either Monday’s or Tuesday’s daily news conference posted on Chinese government arrests.
Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, has been allowed one consular visit to the other two men.
As of Tuesday, the Canadian government had not escalated any travel warnings for Canadians travelling to or within China, urging a high degree of caution in areas where there might be isolated acts of violence, protests or bombings — a warning that has been unchanged since Nov. 23.
Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc