The Chinese government says a Canadian citizen it recently detained is being held for alleged drug offences.
It’s the first time Beijing has discussed details of the case publicly.
Relations between Ottawa and Beijing have been steadily worsening since last December when Canada arrested a senior executive from China’s flagship Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. on an extradition request from the United States. The Americans allege that Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, helped Huawei violate economic sanctions against Iran.
Subsequently, China arrested two Canadians, including a former diplomat. The men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have since been charged with espionage.
The Canadian arrested last week in the eastern Chinese city of Yantai has not been identified by name.
On Monday, however, China’s foreign ministry offered more information about the case.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said police authorities in Shandong province are investigating a “drug case involving foreign students" and that “one of them is a Canadian citizen.” The city of Yantai is in Shandong province.
“The case is now under investigation. The public security authority has made consular notifications to the embassies of relevant countries and will arrange consular visits,” Mr. Geng said.
“The Chinese side protects the legitimate rights and interests of those involved according to law.”
The Canadian’s detention, last week, occurred around the same time as arrests of other foreigners in China.
On Tuesday, police in Xuzhou, a city in Jiangsu province, said it had detained 19 people on drug-related charges and that 16 of them were foreigners, including several British citizens. Xuzhou is about 620 kilometres from Yantai.
But China’s foreign spokesman said the Xuzhou and Yantai matters are unrelated. “There is no connection between this very case and another drug case involving foreigners, which is being investigated by the public security authority of Jiangsu province,” he said.
Over the past six months, China has ratcheted up the pressure since Ms. Meng’s arrest, restricting imports of Canadian canola, pork and beef. It also recently confiscated Mr. Kovrig’s reading glasses. While Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor remain in detention, Ms. Meng is free on bail in Vancouver as she awaits an extradition hearing to begin in early 2020.
A Canadian government official, granted anonymity by The Globe and Mail because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the government has no information to indicate the latest arrest is connected to the detentions of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor.