Tit-for-tat arrest tension builds ahead of US-China tariff talks


With time fast running out before Chinese President Xi Jinping announces whether he’ll meet with his US counterpart at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Largo estate in Florida, at least three think tanks in America have appealed to Beijing to release two Canadians from custody.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in December in what has been variously described as tit-for-tat arrests, over and above the tit-for-tat tariffs between the US and China that the Mar-a-Largo summit aims to repeal.

But Jinping’s government has resolutely maintained that the arrest of the two Canadians is backed by legitimate justification and has nothing to do with accusations that it did so on spurious grounds, presumably out of retaliation for Canada’s earlier arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei.

Her arrest was at the behest of the US.

The think tanks in turn say they’re acting at the behest of much larger interests, namely trade worth billions if the Mar-a-Largo talks go ahead, expectedly on March 27.

But Beijing has given every indication that it’s willing to work with Washington, and so has Trump’s administration.

And yet Asia Society, the Hudson Institute and American Progress, the think tanks to the left and right of the White House’s foreign policy, have warned that unless Beijing releases Kovrig and Spavor the US is also not easily going to let Wenzhou off the hook.

In the meantime Canada should be imminently announcing whether or not she’ll be extradited to the US where she is expected to stand trial on suspicion of fraud.


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