Late last month, China confirmed the detention of British businessman Ian Stones, who vanished in Beijing five years ago and was subsequently convicted, almost 18 months ago, in a secret trial for "illegally providing intelligence" to foreign entities.
- Mr. Stones's case highlights renewed concerns for the safety of foreigners in China.
- The delay in confirming his detention raises questions about the risks faced by foreigners, especially businesspeople, amid China's crackdown on alleged espionage and sharing of state secrets.
- Global Affairs Canada reports that 92 Canadians are currently detained in China, with an unspecified number under exit bans.
- The United States and Britain do not disclose figures, but the Dui Hua Foundation estimates at least 200 Americans are arbitrarily detained in China.
- Peter Humphrey, a former corporate investigator, notes a growing trend of arbitrary detentions of foreign nationals in China.
- He emphasizes the innocence of individuals like Ian Stones, drawing parallels with his own experience of being unjustly detained.
Crackdown and Legislation
- China's discomfort with research into domestic companies led to the passing of a sweeping new espionage law last year.
- The law broadens the definition of state secrets and targets activities perceived as threats to national security.
- The Ministry of State Security (MSS) arrested a foreign consultant on suspicion of spying for Britain.
- MSS has intensified propaganda warning Chinese citizens of potential spies and attacking critics of the country's economy.
Impact on Foreign Nationals
- Chinese nationals working for foreign companies have also been implicated in espionage-related cases.
- The situation has left foreign investors and businesses anxious about potential repercussions from MSS.
Lack of Publicity
- Unlike the high-profile cases of the two Michaels in Canada, Mr. Stones's case received minimal publicity from the British government and his family.
- Decisions about publicizing detainee cases often rest with families, who may fear worsening the situation for their loved ones.
Growing Awareness and Concern
- Countries like the U.S. have designated China as a high-risk location for wrongful detentions.
- Canadians are increasingly wary of traveling to China due to concerns about arbitrary enforcement of laws.
Impact on Connectivity
- Concerns about safety are hindering business travel and reducing connectivity between China and other countries.
- Greater awareness of risks could deter future arbitrary prosecutions, affecting China's efforts to attract foreign investment.
The detention of Ian Stones underscores the precarious situation faced by foreigners in China.
As awareness grows, governments and individuals alike are grappling with how to navigate the risks associated with doing business in the country.