Fifty-eight countries signed a declaration against countries detaining each others’ nationals for political leverage in international relations in a move widely seen as targeting countries like Iran and China.
Canada led the initiative to denounce the practice of arbitrary arrests. Beijing has detained several citizens from Canada, Australia and other countries and has carried out mass incarcerations of residents in Hong Kong, including some dual nationals.
“Today, a quarter of all countries, from all continents, come together to tell those who are being arbitrarily detained for diplomatic gain that they are not alone — we stand with them,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau in an emailed statement. “This illegal and immoral practice puts citizens of all countries at risk and it undermines the rule of law. It is unacceptable and it must stop.”
The announcement comes as relations between China and Western democracies continue to sour over tense economic relations, violent crackdowns in Hong Kong and persecution of China’s Uighur Muslim minority.
Chinese officials last week formally arrested an Australian television anchor on national security charges. Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovring have been held since December 2018 after the Vancouver arrest of Huawei Technologies Co.’s Meng Wanzhou over a U.S. extradition request.
“The practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals as leverage over another government is indefensible and the U.K. will not tolerate it,” said British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. “Depriving someone of their liberty with no legal basis violates fundamental human rights.”