B.C. cancelled December China forest trip due to political concerns over Huawei CFO arrest

Canada’s Beijing embassy advised B.C. not to alter plans

International political considerations, not judicial processes involving the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, were the reason a B.C. forestry delegation’s December visit to China was cancelled, newly released documents indicate.

The trip, fronted by B.C. Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson, was cancelled after the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng, who was detained on an extradition request from the U.S. while changing flights at Vancouver International Airport.

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And the cancellation happened despite advice from Canada’s Beijing embassy that there was no need to change plans.

The China leg of the Asian forest mission was suspended “due to the international judicial process under way relating to a senior official at Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.,” the province said in a statement at the time. Donaldson did visit Korea and Japan.

Documents released to Glacier Media under B.C. freedom of information laws, however, paint a different picture.

“With the political situation developing re the Huawei CFO arrest, there are concerns being raised about bringing a minister and delegation into China next week,” said a Dec. 7 email from B.C. Forestry Innovation and Investment CEO Michael Loseth to Dave Murphy, a senior trade commissioner with Canada’s embassy in Beijing.

Documents show Donaldson wanted to speak with Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, with Loseth attempting to facilitate such a discussion.

Murphy didn’t try to stop the visit.

“Business is as usual here right now, no reason to alter plans,” he wrote to Loseth Dec. 8. “If there were reason to change things for reasons of security/safety, advice to travelling Canadians would be updated. This is true for any country in the world.”

Industry delegates continued their visit to China without the government officials.

The decision for Donaldson and others to return to Canada was made after what Kevin Forseth of Forestry Innovation Investment called in a Dec, 9 email, “the end result of 72 hours of pretty intense discussion involving Ottawa, the embassy in Beijing” and the province at deputy minister, minister and premier levels.

Ministry of Jobs, Training and technology deputy minister Fazil Mihlar was also party to the discussions, trying to reach the delegation’s Chinese hosts for discussion of the situation.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service was also involved with the Pacific region director general offering comments that were blacked out in documents.

When B.C. backed out of the visit, and Chinese organizations also cancelling, concerns were also raised about the security of sites McCallum was set to visit in Xiong’An, a development hub 100 kilometres southwest of Beijing.

McCallum was recalled from his post after telling a newspaper it would be good for Canada if the U.S. dropped its extradition request for Meng. He said if China and the U.S. could reach a deal on Meng’s situation, any deal should include release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were detained in China in what many have called retaliation for Meng’s detention.

The documents were heavily redacted as being policy advice or harmful to law enforcement, intergovmental relations of negotiations to financial or economic interest of a public body.

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