It has been almost a year since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, daughter of Huawei's founder Ren Zhengfei and the company's chief financial officer. The Canadian press believes two of the country's citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are facing retaliation because of her.
Meng was arrested at the Vancouver International Airport by Canadian authorities at the request of the U.S. government. The U.S. has accused her of violating trade sanctions imposed on Iran. Meng has denied these allegations. She has been released on bail but is under house arrest in Vancouver. The U.S. is trying to get her extradited.
Soon after her arrest, Spavor, who was living in Dandong at that time was arrested by Chinese officials. He is a Canadian consultant and has worked in North Korea. Similarly, Kovrig, who is a Canadian diplomat, was also detained. Both the citizens have been accused of espionage. China says that the cases have been handed over to prosecutors.
However, many in Canada and the Western world doubt that they will be put on trial. The general consensus is that China detained them to avenge Meng's arrest. Of course, China has rebuffed these claims and said that its judicial department manages all cases in accordance with the law.
Ren Zhengfei recently reiterated that he believes that his daughter is just a bargaining chip for the U.S. for trade negotiations. And unfortunately for Canada, President Donald Trump has given the same impression. He said that he might intervene if that could benefit a potential US-China trade deal. Soon after these comments, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the extradition process must not be politicized.
What's clear is that the fate of the two Canadian citizens is in jeopardy. Although Meng is confined to Vancouver, she is living in her luxurious mansion. Kovrig and Spavor, on the other hand, are in detention facilities.
According to Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada's former ambassador to China, none of the men have access to lawyers. He also says that they haven't been able to contact their family members since their detention.
They are allowed one 30 minutes supervised consular visit every month. During these, they get to hear news of their family. Additionally, they are given books and other reading material. Chinese officials claim that both of them are in good condition and that their legitimate rights have been ensured.
So, while the state which they are in currently might be debatable, what's clear is that their future seems uncertain. The Canadian government has said that their detention is arbitrary.
In response, China said that the two were arrested for attempting to undermine the country's national security. Additionally, the Chinese embassy said that it was Meng's arrest that was arbitrary. Canada has been asked once again to rectify its mistake and release Meng.
Clearly, the whole situation is complicated. Meng will challenge her extradition to the U.S. next month and there is a chance that the case will be dragged until 2021. On the other hand, there is also a probability that the U.S. and China enter a trade deal. If that happens, the U.S. will likely drop charges against Meng.
In that case, China will likely keep Kovrig and Spavor for even longer and Canada will be able to do nothing about it. Canada's former deputy prime minister has already said that Meng's arrest was a mistake. And unfortunately, the two Canadian citizens are bearing the brunt of it. Canada says that their welfare is its foreign policy priority right now.