Countries issue diplomatic rebuttals and ripostes when bilateral or multilateral differences surface. But China has started working with an entirely new brand of foreign policy- “hostage diplomacy”. China issues threats of harming international diaspora, arresting citizens of other countries on its soil arbitrarily and finally using them as hostages in order to settle scores. At a certain level, China is becoming a huge detention centre for citizens of democratic countries staying in the Communist-Authoritarian country.
China’s “hostage diplomacy” has continued unabated. First Canada, then Australia, and now even the US, China is threatening citizens of every country which is standing up to Chinese expansionism and bullying. On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Chinese government has warned the US about its intention to detain American citizens in China as a means of retaliation against the US Justice Department’s crackdown on Chinese PLA-affiliated students and researchers in the US.
China is unabashedly acting like a medieval-era empire here. It has asked the United States to stop prosecuting Chinese scholars, or else American citizens in China could find themselves in violation of Chinese law. Beijing, therefore, agrees that US citizens have not violated any law, but the Chinese law is such that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can declare anyone a criminal and enforce detention.
Anyhow, China’s bizarre warning to the US corroborates what the Trump administration was also saying till now. A US State Department on September 14 had also warned against travelling to China, arguing that the Chinese government uses arbitrary detentions and exit prohibitions for American citizens and even other foreigners for gaining “bargaining leverage over foreign governments.”
In fact, China’s “hostage diplomacy” dates back to December 2018 itself, when Canada became the first victim of Beijing’s primitive methods. Canada had then arrested Meng Wanzhou, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on an extradition request from the US.
China, however, decided to play barter games involving innocent citizens and detained two Canadians- Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman in a tit-for-tat measure merely nine days after Wanzhou’s arrest. Now, China keeps suggesting an exchange proposal and the Chinese State media has gone as far as saying, “People often fail to note that Meng is worth 10 Kovrig &Spavor, if not more.”
Today, China and Canada are locked in a diplomatic stand-off over the arrest of two Candian nationals by China. Yet, China keeps making more threats to Canada. Now, China’s Ottawa envoy, Cong Peiwu, has warned Canada against granting asylum to Hong Kong democracy protesters. The envoy has warned that if Canada did so, then it could harm the “health and safety” of Canadians living in Hong Kong.
Cong said, “We strongly urge the Canadian side not (to) grant so-called political asylum to those violent criminals in Hong Kong because it is the interference in China’s domestic affairs. And certainly, it will embolden those violent criminals.” He added, “So if the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes.”
And then Canada is not the only victim of China’s “hostage diplomacy”. Australia, which has stood up to Chinese aggression, has also been targeted by Beijing. In June, an Australian national was sentenced to death last month after being convicted by a Chinese Court on smuggling charges.
And then, China recently detained Cheng Lei, an Australian television anchor for the Chinese State-run media outlet, CGTN, amidst heightened Sino-Australian tensions. Canberra itself is aware of Xi Jinping administration’s barbaric ideas. Earlier this year, the Scott Morrison government in Australia upgraded travel warning for China. Warning its citizens, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had said, “Australians may also be at risk of arbitrary detention.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is unabashedly using citizens of other countries staying in China as a means of gaining leverage over its adversaries. Beijing’s threats reveal two issues- one, Chinese policymakers do not understand foreign policy and diplomatic demeanours, and two, governments across the world must rethink their people-to-people ties with China.
If China wants to get decoupled and isolated, then so be it. China’s “hostage diplomacy” disentitles it from tapping into talent from the free world countries. CCP’s adversaries around the world must start imposing fetters on citizens’ travel to China for their own sake.