December 20, 2018 / 7:31 AM / in a month

China says Canadian woman being punished for working illegally

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that a Canadian woman is undergoing “administrative punishment” for working illegally, after Canada’s government said a third Canadian had been detained in China.

A police officer gestures at the photographer as security staff stand guard outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing, China, December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter - RC1E350746F0

Chinese state security agents last week detained two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, saying they were suspected of endangering state security.

The detentions of the Canadians followed the Dec. 1 arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. [HWT.UL]. Meng was arrested at the request of the United States, which is engaged in a trade war with China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying identified the third Canadian as Sarah McIver, who was serving “administrative punishment” due to “illegal employment”. She did not elaborate.

“What I can tell you is that China and Canada are maintaining clear consular communication,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

When asked if McIver’s case was connected to that of Kovrig and Spavor, Hua pointed out that the nature of the cases were different, given the other two were accused of endangering national security.

Hua referred further questions on McIver to the Ministry of Public Security. That ministry did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.

The Canadian government has not identified the third Canadian, though Canadian media has said the person is McIver and said she was an English teacher being held because of “visa complications”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged caution on Wednesday and said he would not be “stomping on a table” after China detained the third Canadian.

Trudeau said he was asking China for more information on the detentions.

He said the latest incident was “a very separate case” from the other two.

The Canadian government has said several times it saw no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor.

But Beijing-based Western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believed the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.

China has demanded Meng’s immediate release and summoned in the Canadian and U.S. ambassadors to complain about the case.

Meng is accused by the United States of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.

She was released on bail in Vancouver, where she owns two homes, while waiting to learn if she will be extradited to the United States. She is due in court on Feb. 6.

Reporting by Philip Wen; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel

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