Canada suspends travel to China for local staff at Hong Kong consulate

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Canada has suspended all work travel to China for some staff at the consulate in Hong Kong.

The move comes after China confirmed on Wednesday it has detained Simon Cheng Man-kit, a trade and investment officer at the British consulate in Hong Kong, who had reportedly travelled to the mainland for a business event two weeks ago.

He did not return and China later said it was detaining him for 15 days in relation to allegations he violated public order.

READ MORE: Pompeo rejects link between Meng case and Canadians detained by China

A Canadian official speaking on background confirmed a tweet by a CBC reporter on the ground in China that the travel suspension was being put in place.

The official did not say whether the move was a direct response to the detention of Cheng Man-kit or whether it had been previously contemplated.

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It will impact locally-engaged staff at the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong, which refers to consulate staff who are foreign citizens of the local country rather than members of the Canadian foreign service.

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Locally-engaged staff perform a variety of roles within embassies and consulates around the world, frequently working in areas of “office and household operating and maintenance functions,” according to the website for Global Affairs Canada.

There is no broader suspension on travel by Canadian diplomatic staff at the consulate at this time.

Global Affairs Canada urges any Canadian travelling to Hong Kong to exercise a high degree of caution because of the ongoing demonstrations against Chinese influence in former British colony, while those travelling to China are urged to do the same “due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

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China detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in December 2018 on what Canadian officials call “arbitrary” claims of endangering national security. Officials in China have publicly linked the detentions to the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Kovrig is an employee of Global Affairs Canada who was on leave to work for an international organization when he was detained.

Spavor is an entrepreneur.

Meng and her company are charged by U.S. authorities with 23 counts of skirting sanctions on Iran and corporate espionage.

Her extradition case is currently before the Canadian courts.

More to come.

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