English Teacher Detained in China for Her Work Permit!
Sarah McIver, described by those who know her as “bubbly” and “approachable,” had been teaching at a school in China when she was detained. The incident left family members back in southern Alberta traumatized and scrambling to reach out to Canadian officials for assistance after confirming what city she was in from an ex-boyfriend.
McIver’s safe return would defuse what would have put additional strain on an already tense relationship between Canada and China, which was shaken by Canada’s arrest of a Chinese tech executive Dec. 1.
One person said McIver was expected to be returned before the New Year. However, officials at Global Affairs Canada did not confirm a timeline, and the situation could remain unresolved.
Canada arrested Huawei Technologies’ Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the firm and daughter of the company’s founder, for extradition at the request of the U.S.
The arrest set off a string of heated verbal rebuttals from Chinese government officials, who likened it to “basically ‘kidnapping.’” In the following weeks, two Canadian citizens — Calgary-born entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig — were detained by Chinese authorities, leading to broader questions about whether China would carry out further arrests in retaliation against Canada.
Michael Kovrig, left, and Michael Spavor are the two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada.
McIver had previously gone abroad to pursue teaching in South Korea and Malaysia. She spent this past summer back in Alberta working at a furniture store where she had previously worked for a couple years, before packing up again — this time for China, according to a store manager.
However, when McIver arrived at her destination, school officials informed her that her position had been given to someone else. So they made arrangements to transfer McIver to a different school in another city.
McIver had been teaching at that other school for a few months — periodically sending pictures of her young students to friends back home — when authorities detained her, apparently because she lacked the proper work visa.
Sources said she was being treated well and could be flown back to Canada in the coming weeks.
Family members of a Sarah McIver based in Calgary and Drumheller, Alta. either declined to respond or did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Global Affairs Canada did not confirm whether McIver was the detained person, citing privacy concerns.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday. Photo: AP
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a slew of questions from reporters on Wednesday as a result of the detainment, where he suggested the case appeared not to be connected to the Huawei arrest.
“The first indications are that this is a very separate case to the two others that occurred earlier in the [month],” he said.
Trudeau said that such discussions between countries are inherently fragile and need to be approached in a tempered way.
“When I was in opposition, as a leader of the opposition, I remember standing in the House and challenging Mr. Harper to pick up the phone and get this Canadian released,” Trudeau said. “I now understand that it’s always a lot more complicated than that.”
“Sometimes politicizing or amplifying the level of public discourse on this may be satisfying in the short term, but would not contribute to the outcome we all want,” he said.
O’Toole told the Canadian Press Wednesday that the situation still raises deeper questions about the safety of Canadians amid the ongoing Canada-China dispute.
“There’s hundreds of Canadians in one way or another working (in China) and is this something that they should worry about — existing visas?” O’Toole said. “That’s what’s very disconcerting about this … Canadians should know if suddenly visas are going to be pulled and reviewed and reconsidered.”
The heated relations come amid U.S. President Donald Trump’s massive trade war with China, in which he has threatened to place tariffs on hundreds of billions worth of goods imported from the world’s second-largest economy.
Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, defended Ottawa’s arrest earlier this month, saying there was “absolutely” no “political conspiracy” behind the move.
Huawei is one of the world’s largest developers of hardware and software technologies, including cutting-edge mobile data networks. The Trudeau government has been under some pressure to bar the company from developing its 5G network in Canada, due to security risks cited by some experts.