Beijing, China | The simultaneous release of Huawei’s chief financial officer by Canada and two Canadians by Beijing has caused concern in China’s foreign affairs circles, with some believing it served as a “hostage diplomacy”.
Read also – China, a formidable partner and adversary
Handing over to the US for three years in Canada, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecom giant suspected of bank fraud, returned to her country as a heroine on Saturday.
At the same time, Michael Spawar and Michael Kovrig were arrested in China a few days after Ms Meng returned to Canada after serving Chinese jails on espionage charges. The media in Beijing did not say a word about their arrest or release.
The Chinese regime confirms that there is no connection between the two cases, but the simultaneous release shows that “hostage diplomacy has worked to some extent,” said Jean-Pierre Cabeston, a Sinologist at Baptist University. Cong
Against this background, some foreign companies are concerned about their expatriate staff acting as bargaining chips in diplomatic disputes.
Steven Lynch, director of the British Chamber of Commerce in China, is concerned that “companies appear to be victims of politics.”
According to the head of a Canadian company in Shanghai, some officers set up contingency plans in the event of their staff being detained.
“It’s very worrying that someone was arrested in the middle of the street at night,” he testified.
The number of workers is declining
The number of expatriates in China has already dropped significantly due to the Kovid-19 pandemic and sanctions introduced by Beijing.
Under political pressure, some Canadian companies decided that the risks to themselves were too high and began to scale in the world’s second-largest economy.
“Every foreigner in China should know that his hours are counted in the country,” said the Canadian business leader.
In addition to the “Two Michaels” case, several foreigners working in China have been arrested in recent years, one of whom was a French pastry chef who was convicted of being involved in an old dough case. He was able to return to France at the end of 2019.
An Irish businessman has been in custody since 2019 after his employer became embroiled in a legal dispute. An Australian reporter for the Chinese channel CGTN was arrested last year when relations between Beijing and Canberra were at an all-time high.
The hypothesis of a “hostage diplomacy” was heightened when two young Americans detained in China since 2018 returned to the United States on Sunday, but Beijing prosecuted their father for “financial crimes.”
In addition to the business community, Western diplomats are concerned about returning to China without full diplomatic immunity.
“The risk of getting caught up in such a conflict is very high,” one diplomat told AFP.
In a typical case of deteriorating relations between China and the West, some multinational companies will feel more in view of Beijing.
This is the case for big brands that have had to apologize in recent months for being accused of anti-Chinese bias on sensitive issues in Hong Kong, Taiwan or the Uyghur Muslim minorities in north-western China.
“Companies are doing more than ever to avoid politics and avoid crossing the red line wherever they are,” agreed a member of the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.
And the international condemnation of “hostage diplomacy” will not have a great impact on communist rule. “I think China can resort to it again,” Jean-Pierre Cabeston predicted, but “contributed to China’s declining reputation in the world.”