[Newsmaker] Canada says second citizen 'missing' in China

Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig have both been detained in China
Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig have both been detained in China
Author

15 December, 2018

China's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday that both men are being held on suspicion of "engaging in activities that endanger the national security" of the country.

Canada has not officially raised the issue with the USA administration, said the source, but Foreign Affairs Minster Chrystia Freeland will get the opportunity when she travels to Washington on Friday for a pre-arranged meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

Another option for the daughter of the Chinese billionaire founder of Huawei is to waive any legal challenges in Canada, hire the best lawyers she can find in the US and fight the case in the U.S.

"Canada needs to unite around this issue and send a clear message to the Chinese government that it is completely unacceptable that a Canadian citizen on Chinese soil is being used in this way", Scheer said.

That news came three days after Ottawa was informed that Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave working as a senior adviser with International Crisis Group, had been arrested in Beijing.

The official news outlet for the northeastern province of Liaoning said Thursday that Spavor was placed under investigation by state security forces in the city of Dandong.

Spavor, who organizes business, culture and tourism trips to North Korea, is best known for organizing NBA Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman's visit to Pyongyang.

Spavor is the second Canadian to go missing in China this week as tensions rise over the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. A Canadian judge released Meng on a $10-million bail Tuesday which included conditions she wear an electronic tracker and is monitored by two surveillance staff.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told the media Wednesday that at one point Spavor had reached out to Canadian officials "because he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities", but she added, "we have not been able to make contact since he raised those concerns".

Luxury clothing retailer Canada Goose has become the first Canadian brand to bear the brunt of China's consumer outrage following the arrest of a high-ranking Huawei executive, Chinese state media said.

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The United States alleges that Meng was personally complicit in giving untrue assurances to USA financial institutions that Huawei was not involved in evading U.S. sanctions on Iran.

"The detention of two Canadian citizens is unacceptable, they ought to be returned", Pompeo said.

Spavor is a well-known figure within the DPRK-watching community, with his privately-run NGO Paektu Cultural Exchange (PCE) frequently bringing delegations in-country to examine business opportunities in North Korea.

Meng has no criminal record anywhere in the world and her arrest violates a U.S.

The justice minister could deny the U.S. request if they deem "it has been made for an improper goal", said one official.

"But the use of a complete set of laws to prove the rationale for arrest is one and the same as what the US and Canada did to Meng Wanzhou", he wrote.

ICG had earlier this week reported Kovrig's arrest, while Ottawa on Wednesday said that it had not heard from Spavor since he was questioned. Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau isn't being forceful enough with the Chinese. Su pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nearly four years in prison.

Pity Canada. No sooner does it accede to President Trump's demand for a renegotiation of its free-trade deal with America than it finds itself caught in the crossfire of Washington's trade war with China.

"That was the most incredible experience I've had in my life.We hung out for three days", he said.

However, Mr Trump's own officials frowned on the idea, with US Assistant Attorney General John Demers remarking: "What we do at the justice department is law enforcement".


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