RBC Told Bankers Avoid China Travel Amid Huawei Saga

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Bank of Canada recently told employees to avoid travel to China, people with knowledge of the matter said, amid a diplomatic feud over the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer on Canadian soil.

The Toronto-based lender has asked its workers, especially those based in Canada, to skip business trips to China, one of the people said. The bank has requested that at least two Canada-based staff cancel or delay their travel to the country, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

It wasn’t immediately clear how long the measure would be in effect. Since late last year, the Chinese government has seized at least two Canadians in national security investigations. The moves follow Canada’s arrest of Chinese telecommunications equipment giant Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou.

RBC Told Bankers Avoid China Travel Amid Huawei Saga

Individual RBC employees may exercise discretion to determine which travel is essential, and some investment bankers working on Chinese deals have made trips to the country, one person said. A spokesman for RBC said the company follows travel advisories from the Canadian government and declined to comment further.

A government notice dated January 14 recommends Canadian citizens exercise a “high degree of caution” in China, the second-lowest of four risk levels, due to the possibility of “arbitrary enforcement” of local laws. In more extreme cases, the government may advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel or even to not visit a country at all.

UBS Group AG in October imposed restrictions on staff travel to China after one of its employees was detained, Bloomberg News reported at the time. Julius Baer also had similar travel ban at the time, people with knowledge of the matter have said. The UBS wealth manager who was detained in China for about three months later returned home, and UBS removed the travel restrictions.

Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, who organizes North Korea tours for foreigners including ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman, have been detained in China since mid-December. The government hasn’t yet explained the specific allegations against them. China has said it welcomes all foreigners who want to visit as long as they respect the country’s laws.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.