M’LEARNED FRIENDS at China Law Blog have posted a rather salutary guide to hostage-taking in China — how to avoid it befalling you, not a how to do it guide, we should rapidly add.
Hostage-taking is far more common in China than is often realised, and in some cases, legal. China’s laws, judiciary and police make it easy to find pretexts for taking foreign nationals hostage.
It is a persistent threat for foreigners working in the country, which has added to the reasons that multinationals doing business in China have been pulling out foreign employees over the past year.
One of the prompts for the post is, self-evidently, the case of ‘the two Michaels’ — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the Canadians detained by Chinese authorities shortly after Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada nearly three years ago on a US extradition request. They were released soon after she was on Friday following her deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice that will wipe away the fraud charges against her.
To this Bystander, the money sentence is:
China released the two Michaels literally within hours of Meng walking free, and it did so to let the world know that it did use the arrest of the two Michaels as hostage diplomacy and, even more importantly, to threaten the world that it would not hesitate to engage in hostage diplomacy again.
The full post, Meng Wenzhou, the Two Michaels and China Hostage Taking: What YOU Need to Know, is well worth the read.
The main takeaway from the two Michaels example is that diplomatic hostage taking works as a political tool, not least because authorities are not overly concerned about any international ill will China earns from such behaviour.