With 13 Canadians detained in China since December 1, 2018, MLI Research Advisory Board member Elliot Tepper joined CTV News to discuss the ongoing tensions in Canada-China relations.
Since the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in response to American charges of alleged sanctions violations, China has been engaging in what Tepper describes as a "tit for tat arrangement, where China has decided to punish us by arbitrarily picking up Canadians under what are likely to be fairly unsubstantiated causes.”
13 Canadians have been detained in China since Meng's arrest, with at least 3 being picked up under suspicious circumstances. Tepper notes that while the total number of Canadians detained (approximately 200) is not particularly abnormal, the circumstances of the arrests are clearly suspicious.
“It is probably the time to raise the issue with autocratic regimes… that detention of foreigners for spurious reasons is not acceptable under international law."
In terms of addressing this issue, Tepper argues that there are several courses of action available for Canada.
"The first [options] are the normal consular services that are provided to Canadians," he says. These sorts of services should be provided to the Canadians who are caught up in this dispute.
Tepper also suggests that this is part of a larger dispute between the US and China. Excluding ongoing trade tensions, the two superpowers appear to be carrying on under more or less normal circumstances. “Why are we in this situation? We are caught holding the bag on this issue. We should be quietly approaching the US to say [that they must] make a decision on [the extradition of Meng Wanzhou.]”
Other options for Canada include working with our allies to advocate for the Canadians who have been detained. Canada ought to be pushing countries like Australia, the UK, and others to come to bat for us, says Tepper.
“Perhaps it is even time to go to the UN on this one.”
Tepper also addresses the committee of Canadian Parliamentarians travelling to China on routine business. While he does not believe that they will be detained, he doubts that they will have a positive impact.
“I’m not sure what they will accomplish; I don’t know the purpose of their mission. Clearly, this is not a good time for bilateral missions which are intended to achieve some positive result.”