China says a detained Canadian woman is serving “administrative punishment” for working illegally.
At a briefing with reporters Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying identified the woman as Sarah McIver. She did not give details about the penalties.
Canadian media earlier identified McIver as a teacher.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday his government was trying to get more information about the case, but that McIver’s detention did not seem to be related to the detention of two other Canadians in China. He called it “a very separate case.”
Two Canadians were taken into custody in China shortly after Canadian police arrested a top Chinese telecom executive on a U.S. warrant Dec. 1.
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is accused of evading U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Although Canadian officials have not directly tied the detentions in China to Meng’s arrest, former Canadian ambassador to China, David Mulroney, finds that unlikely.
“One detention is bad enough. Two is terrible. Three underlines how ruthless China can be. It serves as a reminder for people that China is a detention state,” he said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier that the other two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business consultant Michael Spavor, are accused of endangering China’s national security.
U.S. officials say Meng lied to banks about Huawei’s control of Hong Kong-based Skycom, a company that allegedly sold U.S. goods to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Meng is out on bail in Vancouver while she awaits a hearing on extradition to the United States.
China has warned Canada of “grave consequences” if it does not free Meng.
President Donald Trump told Reuters last week that he would personally intervene in the Meng case if it would benefit U.S. national security or help close a trade deal with China.
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, says it is easy for China to direct its anger at Canada, but that it should be blaming the United States instead.
"The trade relationship, and more broadly strategically, is so important that they're afraid of whipping up the ire of the American president," Wiseman told VOA."And for them the most vital thing is getting to some sort of trade agreement with the United States because right now they're economy is actually on a downward slope."