After the prompt release and flight of Meng Wan Zhou, China’s actions to immediately release Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, despite one awaiting trial and the other serving a 12 year sentence, appeared to be an act of mercy that Canadians should rejoice at.
Under the surface though, it was an admission that the Chinese Communist Party abuse of their legal system was an act of retributive diplomacy, imposed just for Canadian compliance with the international criminal extradition system, one that China clearly does not respect.
It also signals that China does not fear admitting that they are a lawless state not bound by international law or norms, and that when a well connected party members child faces criminal charges abroad that they will unabashedly resort to kidnapping foreign nationals and hold them in squalid conditions to extort that state to effect the elite child’s release.
This amounts to essentially illegal hostage taking, in contravention of international law, the international criminal justice system, and norms in place regarding sovereignty and extradition.
Canada, through the Liberal government under Trudeau, has made clear that they ostensibly value human rights and the international order. They must now make a choice in whether they will permit such behavior to threaten their values and national interests by failing to act, especially after such a brazen admission made through China’s actions.
Now that China has, in effect, admitted through the release of the two Michaels in response to the American courts dropping of the extradition request, that the arbitrary arrest, detention, and abuse of the two Canadian was purely an abuse of their legal system, Canada has no choice but to act.
As there is no formal extradition treaty in place between the two that could be used to charge responsible parties, Canada ought to, firstly, sanction all party officials involved by releasing interpol arrest warrants for them, secondly, request the evacuation of all Canadian citizens in China, and most importantly, expel all Chinese nationals with ties to the Communist Party of China from Canada, immediately. This would not be done retributively, but to prevent the possibility that detention of party affiliated nationals, should they be accused of a crime, could be used in the future to kidnap further Canadians in order to extort the Canadian state.
These actions would not only would this minimize liability to the Canadian state and hopefully prevent further state kidnappings, it would sent a message to the PRC that such actions will be responded to by countries that value the international system, human rights, and accountability when the PRC commits flagrantly criminal actions.
Staff writer: Ari B