The foreign ministry’s statement on Thursday comes after Chinese state security agents last week detained two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, saying they were suspected of endangering state security.
The detentions of the Canadians followed the arrest on December 1 in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies. Meng was arrested at the request of the United States, which is engaged in a trade war with China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying identified the third Canadian as Sarah McIver, who was serving “administrative punishment” due to “illegal employment”. She, however, but did not elaborate.
“What I can tell you is that China and Canada are maintaining clear consular communication,” Hua told a daily news briefing.
When asked if McIver’s case was connected to that of Kovrig and Spavor, Hua pointed out that the natures of the cases were different, given the other two were accused of endangering national security.
US, Canada hold talks amid tension with China over Huawei case
Hua referred further questions on McIver to the Ministry of Public Security. The ministry did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.
The Canadian government has not identified the third detainee, though Canadian media reported the person was McIver and said she was an English teacher being held because of “visa complications”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had on Wednesday urged caution and said he would not be “stomping on a table” after China detained the third Canadian.
Trudeau said he was asking China for more information on the detentions. He said the latest incident was “a very separate case” from the other two.
The Canadian government has said several times it saw no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder, and the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor.
But Beijing-based Western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believed the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.
China has demanded Meng’s immediate release and summoned in the Canadian and US ambassadors to complain about the case.
Meng is accused by the US of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating US sanctions.
She was released on bail in Vancouver, where she owns two homes, while waiting to learn if she will be extradited to the US. She is due in court on February 6.