stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
'Who knows what's possible here?'
space
After the detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Canadians living in China worry they could be next
space
By NATHAN VANDERKLIPPE
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Friday, December 14, 2018 – Page A9

BEIJING -- The corporate room had already been decked in congratulatory banners, ready for the final pen strokes on an agreement intended to bring together a Canadian company and a Chinese state-owned firm to develop projects that could one day be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Then, 21 hours before the paperwork was supposed to be finalized, the founder of the Canadian company received a message.

"Because of what has recently happened between Canada and China with the Huawei company, and considering the political factors and our status as a state-owned company, we have decided to postpone the signing ceremony," the Chinese partner wrote in a message seen by The Globe and Mail.

"I think it will still happen," said the Canadian founder, whose name The Globe is withholding because he still hopes to complete the deal, and fears reprisal for speaking out.

"But if the government says you're finished, then it's all gone."

Canadians have grown accustomed to a warm reception in a country that still lionizes Norman Bethune, the doctor who helped Mao's Communists.

But China's detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor after the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei, has brought a swell of new feelings in Beijing, Shanghai and cities farther afield: uncertainty, nervousness, even fear.

Commentaries in Chinese state media have called Ms. Meng's arrest a "kidnapping" and a "hostage-taking," and social media has coursed with fury at Canada, after it arrested the Huawei executive at the request of the United States, which alleges she committed fraud in 2013 by misleading U.S financial institutions about Huawei's control of a company operating in Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.

The ill sentiment has seeped into offices in China, where some Canadians say their Chinese colleagues have told them they support their country taking retribution against Canada, reflecting a sentiment that has come from the country's top leadership. On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China's "government will not sit back in silence amid bullying that recklessly violates the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens."

On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that both Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor were being investigated by the state security apparatus for endangering national security, and were subject to "compulsory measures," a term often used to describe detention without formal charges, which can last for six months.

"I'm seeing a lot of nationalism.

I'm seeing a lot of China versus the world," said Michael Yen, a business consultant who has lived in the country for three years. He usually wears a maple-leaf shirt a few times a week. This week, he felt it was better to leave the Canadian colours on the shelf. "I don't like the fact that they will target certain nations and kind of bully those people," he said.

The federal government has given reassurances that relations with China remain largely as usual. Top forestry executives are in Beijing this week, while Tourism Minister Mélanie Joly is still expected to travel to the Chinese capital next week.

But at least one Canadian government representative in China has privately warned Canadians to be exceedingly cautious, particularly if they are already in the midst of difficulties with Chinese business partners.

In Shanghai, China's commercial capital, fear of retribution has led some Canadian executives to take early Christmas vacations, two people said. At the offices of one major Canadian company in China, employees were told to submit a list of emergency contacts in Canada and China. The Canadian embassy in Beijing itself has been the target of at least one bomb threat posted to its Twitter-like Weibo account, while Chinese social media has been flooded with threats of economic reprisal against Canada Goose, the clothing brand that recently launched a major expansion in China.

"Who knows what's possible here?" said Mark Simon, who has lived in China for 12 years and is among the most visible members of the Canadian hockey community in Beijing.

Until there is some resolution, he feels "a tad less proud, and safe, with a Canadian flag on me here."

On Thursday, a Canadian executive in Beijing breathed a sigh of relief when he picked up a call from an unfamiliar number, only to find a Globe reporter on the line.

"I thought you might be the Public Security Bureau," he said, asking not to be identified out of concern for his safety. He had a flash of anxiety when he returned to China this week, wondering if his Canadian passport would be flagged. It wasn't, but it was the first time in 20 years he could recall feeling that way. "Because I look at the profile of these two people" - the detained Canadians - "and they're irrelevant people, like me," he said. "They're not the head of a big organization, like a big bank or a big airline."

Indeed, China's detention of Mr. Spavor, who built a business bringing tourists and sports groups to North Korea, suggests "any Canadian national will do.

Which has its own signal: We'll target just any Canadian in retaliation." said J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based former analyst with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service who is a senior non-resident fellow with the University of Nottingham in Britain.

He sees this "as China going after the weaker party in all this - Canada - which not only pressures Ottawa but also can be used to accentuate a rift in U.S.-Canada relations."

The Chinese government has said Canadians have nothing to fear, noting that 780,000 people from Canada had come to China in the first 10 months of this year.

In fact, "since the Canadian government has taken a wrong action under the orders of the U.S.

and arrested Ms. Meng, many Chinese people are now wondering if Canada is a safe country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Thursday.

He cast doubt on the idea that Chinese companies would back away from dealing with Canadians. "It doesn't sound like something that Chinese people would do," he said. If foreigners "comply with China's law and regulations, there's nothing to worry about," he said.

Some Canadians in China, meanwhile, said they felt Canada had been placed in an unfair situation, wedged in the middle of a conflict between the world's largest economic powers.

"What's going on is basically a tribal war. Canada shouldn't pick sides. It's a terrible outcome either way," said Alex Zhu, who splits his time between China and British Columbia.

Still, others said the last week has left them feeling vulnerable.

"Depending on how this is resolved," said Tom Bailey, who has been in China for six years, "there could be a few extra urine tests after Canadians come back from the Christmas holiday in a more recently liberalized Canada."

Associated Graphic

Chinese police patrol outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing on Thursday. The embassy was the target of a bomb threat in the wake of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou's arrest. GREG BAKER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main David_Macfarlane Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page