The two had been detained after Canada’s arrest of the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who also arrived home after she and the US justice department reached a deferred prosecution agreement. The surprise releases ended an impasse that tested the diplomatic resolve of Canada, which found itself caught in the middle of a broader feud between Beijing and Washington.
But experts caution that China’s increasingly hardline approach – and the brazenness with which it was willing to engage in “hostage diplomacy” – should be taken as a warning to other nations.
“China was sending a message not just to Canada, but to every other country in the world that they take hostages. And if you step out of line from their policies or don’t toe the line the way Beijing has instructed you to do, then they will take retaliatory action and kidnap your citizens,” said Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s graduate school of public and international affairs. “This is the behaviour of a medieval kingdom – not a 2021 superpower.”