In the long history of imperial China, emperors of China (and other powerful officials) would on occasion keep hostages taken from other countries or rival organizations to ensure peace or allegiance between states or groups or as leverage in negotiations. Sometimes even, an emperor would take hostages from the family of powerful officials or generals to make sure that they stayed loyal to the emperor. Books have even been written about this practice.
In modern China, the practice of taking hostages continues, but in a somewhat different form. China frequently arrests and detains foreign nationals, accusing them of crimes and holding them for “investigation,” at times for months, without contact with lawyers, family, friends, or officials from their home country. This practice of holding people incommunicado is part of the reason that the Hong Kong people want nothing to do with China’s “justice” system. Sometimes, prisoners disappear permanently – killed or dying while in detention in China.
Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that China seized a U.S. citizen, a pilot for FedEx named Todd Hohn, accusing him of “transporting ammunition” on a flight where security had already cleared him. The “ammunition” in question was plastic pellets for a low-powered replica gun. They are common in Hong Kong, where he lives.
Not long ago, President Trump ordered FedEx and other package delivery companies to increase their inspections of packages entering the U.S. from China as part of a crackdown on fentanyl smuggling into the U.S. Recently, enough fentanyl to kill 14 million people was seized in Virginia. It was shipped from a vendor in Shanghai. China has denied has denied that it is the source for fentanyl entering the U.S. Of course, that is just more CCP propaganda.
Along with the fentanyl smuggling problem, trade negotiations between the U.S. and China are starting soon, and the U.S. Congress is pushing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act through the legislative process, on its way to becoming U.S. law.
So given this background, from China’s point of view, detaining a FedEx pilot – better yet, an American citizen living in Hong Kong – on this phony charge makes perfect sense. China gets some leverage over FedEx in enforcement of shipping regulations, and over the U.S in the trade negotiations, and China can also use it to pressure the U.S. Congress against passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and to express its anger at U.S. support for the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. Given China’s long history of using hostages as pawns in diplomacy and negotiations, it isn’t really surprising that they would do this, but it is still despicable.
China at this moment is holding citizens of Australia, Canada, and the United States, and possibly other countries, on politically-based charges. It is unfortunately typical of China to engage in “hostage diplomacy,” and that fact is yet more evidence that the CCP is uncivilized, and not worthy to be a member of the community of nations. We will say it yet again: the Chinese people deserve a much better government than the one they unfortunately have.