Beijing, Dec 20 (AFP) A third Canadian detained in China is being held for working illegally in the country, the foreign ministry said Thursday, in a case which appears unrelated to previous detentions that have sparked diplomatic tensions.Also Read - South Korean Workers Dress Up As 'Squid Game' Characters to Protest For Their Rights | Watch

The Canadian, a woman named Sarah McIver, faces “administrative penalties”, said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a press briefing in Beijing, without specifying what the penalties entail. Also Read - South Korea to launch First Homegrown Space Rocket on Oct 21

Canada’s National Post newspaper identified McIver as a teacher from Alberta who had been working at a school in China. Citing an unidentified source, it said she was expected to be returned to her country before the New Year. Also Read - South Korea's Childbirth Rate Hits Lowest Since 1981; Reveals Statistical Office Data

It comes after former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and China-based business consultant Michael Spavor were detained on national security grounds in suspected retaliation over Canada’s arrest of a top Chinese telecom executive.

Hua said that McIver’s case is different from the previous two detentions, which were carried out by China’s state security apparatus. McIver is being held by a local public security bureau, she added.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also suggested on Wednesday that McIver’s case was separate, saying Ottawa was “looking into the details” but that it “doesn’t seem to fit the pattern set by the previous two.” Kovrig and Spavor were both detained on December 10 and accused of engaging in activities “that endanger China’s national security”.

McIver’s case comes against a backdrop of escalating tensions between China and Canada, which arrested Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wangzhou on December 1.

Ottawa has repeatedly said Meng’s arrest was not political but rather part of a judicial process in keeping with an extradition treaty with Washington.

Meng was released on bail last week in Vancouver pending her US extradition hearing on fraud charges related to sanctions-breaking business dealings with Iran.

Canadian officials have been granted consular access to both Kovrig and Spavor. Hua said Thursday that Canada and China are maintaining “unimpeded consular communication” on McIver’s case.

McIver, described by those who know her as “bubbly” and “approachable”, was detained by authorities due to visa complications, the National Post reported.

She had previously travelled abroad to teach in South Korea and Malaysia, and arrangements are being made for her return to Canada, said the Canadian newspaper.

The Chinese foreign ministry said it could not confirm whether or not McIver was heading home soon.

Trudeau is facing pressure at home to send a stronger message to Beijing in response to the spate of detentions in China.

Ottawa is still trying to “figure out why” the two other Canadians, Kovrig and Spavor, are being investigated and is “trying to work with China to demonstrate that this not acceptable”, Trudeau told Toronto’s Citytv last week.

Bob Rae, who briefly led Canada’s Liberal Party (2011-2013) before handing the reins to Trudeau, urged the government to develop a “robust, principled and effective response” to Beijing’s actions.

“This looks too much like hostage taking,” he said on Twitter.

Observers say Canada is increasingly looking like collateral damage in a simmering US-China trade war, with Beijing at the same time working to ease trade tensions with Washington.

China’s state-owned grain stockpiler said Wednesday it has resumed buying US soybeans. Last week, China said it would suspend extra tariffs on US-made cars and auto parts for three months from January 1.

The move followed an accord between Xi and US President Donald Trump — reached on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on December 1, the very day Meng was arrested — to hold off on new tariffs set to take effect in the new year and instead start negotiations on trade concerns.

“The escalating trade war between them is going to have all sorts of unintended consequences for Canada, potentially the entire global economy,” Trudeau has said. “We’re very worried about that.” (AFP) PMS

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.