Arrests of Canadians in China unacceptable, says US ambassador

Supporters hold a sign of support for Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer prior to her bail hearing at a Vancouver, British Columbia courthouse on Dec. 10, 2018. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Updated 10 February 2019
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Arrests of Canadians in China unacceptable, says US ambassador

  • China detained the two Canadians on Dec. 10 after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou
  • Washington requested Meng's extradition to the US to face fraud charges
TORONTO: The US ambassador to Canada said Saturday her country is “deeply concerned” about China’s “unlawful” detention of two Canadians.
Ambassador Kelly Craft said in a statement to The Associated Press the arrests of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor are “unacceptable” and urged China to end the arbitrary detentions. It is her first public comments on the cases.
China detained the two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of US authorities.
Meng is the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder.
The US wants her extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
Craft said the US Department of Justice’s criminal case against Meng is based solely on the evidence and the law.
“The United States appreciates Canada’s steadfast commitment to the rule of law,” she said.
Craft made no mention of China’s planned execution of a third Canadian. China re-sentenced a convicted Canadian drug smuggler to death after the Meng arrest as part of an apparent campaign of intimidation and retribution against Canada.
Some analysts have said the US response to China’s arrests of the two Canadians has been muted. President Donald Trump himself has not commented on the Canadians. But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has, saying China ought to release them. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders and the State Department have also issued statements of support.
“We urge China to end all forms of arbitrary and unlawful detentions and to respect the protections and freedoms of all individuals in accordance with China’s international commitments,” Craft said.
Robert Bothwell, a professor at the University of Toronto, called Craft’s statement “tepid.”
“It doesn’t bespeak ringing support,” Bothwell said.
Beijing threatened grave consequences for America’s neighbor and ally after Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport.
Canada has embarked on a campaign with allies to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor and many countries have issued statements in support.
The two were detained on vague allegations of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China. They remain locked up without access to lawyers.
Meng is out on bail in Canada and living in one of her two Vancouver mansions awaiting extradition proceedings.
Despite the escalating frictions resulting from the detentions, trade talks between Beijing and the Trump administration remain ongoing.
The US has taken pains to emphasize that their trade talks are entirely separate from the US case against Meng. They have been doing so since Trump said in an interview that he might be willing to drop the charges against Meng as part of a trade deal with China.
Trump’s comment frustrated Canadian officials who have been adamant Canada is following the rule of law and that Canada has an extradition treaty it must respect. A Canadian judge could deny the extradition request if it the charges are deemed political.
“The next time the US asks Canada will be hard of hearing,” Bothwell said. “Trouble with Trump and company is that they are entirely transactional. They don’t think ahead. And in this case Trump’s own words will probably be enough to get the US extradition request denied.”


Google to end forced arbitration for all worker disputes

Updated 58 min 26 sec ago
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Google to end forced arbitration for all worker disputes

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Google said Thursday it will no longer require that its workers settle disputes with the company through arbitration, responding to months of pressure from employees.
The change will take effect March 21 and will apply to current and future employees. Employees that have settled past disputes won’t be able to re-open their cases.
Google said last year it would end forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault cases, and Thursday expanded that practice to all worker disputes. Google’s parent company, Mountain View, California-based Alphabet Inc., has its nearly 100,000 employees.
The updated practices only apply to Google employees, and employees of Google projects such as Deep Mind and Access. Other Alphabet subsidiaries, such as Waymo, are not included.
Mandatory arbitration requires employees to settle their disputes with the company privately and outside of court. The practice, widespread in US employment contracts, can lend itself to secrecy and has faced criticism recently.
Google workers who staged a walk out late last year have continued to press the tech giant to drop forced arbitration requirements. Protest organizers commended Google for Thursday’s announcement, but wrote in a Medium post that they would not officially celebrate until the changes went live in employee agreements.
Google won’t make all employees re-sign their work contracts, it said, but will post the policy change internally and update its contracts for new employees.
The company also said it would extend the change to its agreements with contract workers. But it will not require vendors to change their own contracts, meaning some workers could still be held to the previous standard.
Other tech companies including Facebook, Uber and Microsoft have recently ended forced arbitration for sexual assault and harassment claims.
Google Walkout organizers who are focused on forced arbitration issues said they would continue working on ending the practice at other companies. Members of the group plan to meet with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., next week to advocate for a federal law against forced arbitration.