BEIJING, The arrest of a third Canadian in China has heightened anxiety even in an expatriate community accustomed to some level of fear and uncertainty.
Beijing on Thursday confirmed it arrested Canadian Sarah McIver for
working illegally in the country, following the detention of two other
Canadians on national security grounds.
While Canadian authorities said the latest detention appears to be a
routine visa case, it has nonetheless exacerbated concerns among Canadian
expatriates in China � fearful that they too might be detained over a legal
I think most Canadians that are here are living in fear at some level, a
fear of losing what they have here, a fear of getting arrested, fear of
retribution, said Shanghai-based Ricky Ng-Adam, founder of CoderBunker, a
community of software developers.
It's a constant fear, he said, adding that some of his compatriots self-
censor their social media postings and try to keep a low profile.
Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and China-based business consultant
Michael Spavor were detained on December 10 and accused of engaging in
activities that endanger China's national security.
Kovrig is a senior advisor at the International Crisis Group think tank,
while Spavor facilitates trips to North Korea, including visits by former NBA
star Dennis Rodman.
Though no link has officially been made between the three detentions,
suspicions are mounting that China is holding at least two of the Canadian
nationals in retaliation of Canada's arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive
at Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
The ambiguity surrounding the arrests has also added to the unease, said
Canadian Adrian Wu, who frequently travels to China for both work and
Even though the third person arrested is not related to the cases of the
first two, people see the headlines and immediately think 'a Canadian got
taken', he said.
Ottawa has repeatedly said Meng's arrest was not political but rather part
of a judicial process in keeping with an extradition treaty with Washington.
Meng was released on bail last week in Vancouver pending her US extradition
hearing on fraud charges related to sanctions-breaking business dealings with
Ottawa and Washington on Friday stepped up pressure on Beijing and called
for the immediate release of Kovrig and Spavor.
Observers say Canada is increasingly looking like collateral damage in a
simmering US-China trade war, with Beijing at the same time working to ease
trade tensions with Washington.
Canada is really just caught in between the US and China, we're like a
scapegoat, a businesswoman in education told AFP, requesting anonymity for
fear of reprisals.
Like a number of Canadian expats, she is using the holidays as an excuse to
stay out of the country.
At least I can remain in North America to see how the situation will play
out from a safe distance, she said.
Others in the Canadian community, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
they are making contingency plans to leave the country just in case the
situation takes a turn for the worse.
It is now up to China to decide how much they want to escalate the
situation, said Hugh Stephens, distinguished fellow at the Asia Pacific
Foundation of Canada.
The Chinese aren't going to influence the Canadian court system by
whatever they do but there could be a lot of collateral damage, which could
seriously potentially damage relationships in the long term, he said.
Despite the volume of business between Canada and China, people might
start wondering whether or not they'd be targeted and consider a long
Christmas holiday, he added.
The fallout from the arrests could have implications beyond the immediate
Canadian expat community, including researchers who visit China.
On Thursday, representatives of six Berlin-based institutions, which
included the European Council for Foreign Relations and the German Marshall
Fund, expressed concern about the spate of Canadians detained.
Developments such as these increase uncertainty and distrust among foreign
scholars who regularly conduct research within China, as they fear for their
safety, the joint statement said.
This will clearly undermine efforts to better understand developments in
Yet some feel there is no need to overreact, calling this China's way of
dealing with things.
I'm not worried about this on a day-to-day basis and I certainly won't
change my daily activities because of a few people who have been detained,
financial analyst Scott Laprise told AFP.
There's always a sense at the back of my mind that something could happen,
but that's a part of living in China.
The Canadian embassy and the Canadian China Business Council did not
respond to AFP requests for comment.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)