China has formally arrested two Canadian citizens it is believed to be holding to pressure Canada into releasing a Chinese telecoms executive, bringing the two men closer to trial on vaguely defined state security charges.
Michael Kovrig (left) and Michael Spavor (right) are seen in this composite image.
The Associated Press
Published Thursday, May 16, 2019 5:37AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 16, 2019 7:20AM EDT
BEIJING -- China has formally arrested two Canadian citizens it is believed to be holding to pressure Canada into releasing a Chinese telecoms executive, bringing the two men closer to trial on vaguely defined state security charges.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Thursday that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been arrested for allegedly stealing state secrets.
"We always act in accordance with the law, and we hope that Canada will not make irresponsible remarks on China's legal construction and judicial handling," Lu said at a regularly scheduled news conference.
Lu gave no other details. Kovrig is a former Canadian diplomat and expert at the International Crisis Group, and Spavor is a businessman with lengthy experience in North Korea.
China had earlier accused the two of conspiring together to steal Chinese state secrets.
Both were detained on Dec. 10 after Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with telecoms giant Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver, Canada, on Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities who want her extradited to face fraud charges.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei's founder, is accused of lying to banks about the company's dealings with Iran in violation of U.S. trade sanctions. Her attorney has argued that comments by U.S. President Donald Trump suggest the case against her is politically motivated.
The Canadian Embassy in Beijing referred questions to diplomats in Ottawa, who did not immediately issue any comments Thursday.
Canadian diplomats have labeled the men's confinement as "arbitrary" and called for their immediate release.
Meng is free on bail and a judge this month granted her request to move into a larger Vancouver multimillion-dollar home that recently underwent renovation. The judge also ruled that she will hear arguments on evidence disclosure in late September and October. A decision on whether Meng is extradited to the U.S. could take years.
Kovrig and Spavor are being held in detention facilities and have yet to be granted access to lawyers.
The U.S. has pressured other countries to limit their use of Huawei's technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.
China and the U.S. are currently embroiled in a trade dispute that has beleaguered global financial markets. Many of the U.S. complaints revolve around China's drive to acquire advanced intellectual property and dominate fields such as latest-generation 5G cellphone technology that Huawei has pursued.
Another Canadian held in China, Robert Schellenberg, was re-sentenced to death in a drug case following Meng's detention. His case is currently under appeal.
Chinese authorities have formally arrested on state secrets charges two Canadian...
China formally arrests two Canadians on state secrets charges
4 MIN READ
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities have formally arrested on state secrets charges two Canadians detained last year, the government said on Thursday, drawing condemnation from Canada in a case that is likely to further increase tension between Ottawa and Beijing.
FILE PHOTO: People hold placards calling for China to release Canadian detainees Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig outside a court hearing for Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Businessman Michael Spavor, who worked with North Korea, and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were picked up separately in December, shortly after Canada arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who faces extradition to the United States.
China has repeatedly demanded Meng be released, and has reacted angrily to extradition proceedings against her in a Canadian court.
“According to Chinese prosecutors’ approval, Michael Kovrig, due to being suspected of crimes of gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign (forces), and Michael Spavor, for being suspected of crimes of stealing and illegally providing state secrets for foreign (forces), have in recent days been approved for arrest according to law,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing.
The measures were in accordance with the law, Lu said, and Beijing hoped Canada “will not make irresponsible remarks” about law enforcement and judicial proceedings in China.
Canada’s government denounced the move.
“Canada strongly condemns their arbitrary arrest as we condemned their arbitrary detention on Dec. 10. We reiterate our demand that China immediately release Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor,” Canada’s foreign ministry said.
Canadian diplomats have made recent consular visits to them both, it added, declining to provide further details for privacy reasons.
“Canada continues to express its appreciation to those who have spoken in support of these detained Canadians and the rule of law. This includes Australia, the EU, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Spain, Denmark, NATO, and the G7.”
In March, China accused the two of involvement in stealing state secrets.
China has said it is fully guaranteeing both men’s lawful rights. Kovrig also holds Hungarian citizenship.
Kovrig works for the International Crisis Group (ICG) non-governmental organization which focuses on conflict resolution.
With their formal arrest, they could soon face trial, though it is unclear when that may be.
While Canada says China has made no specific link between the detentions of the two men and Meng’s arrest, experts and former diplomats say they have no doubt it is using their cases to pressure Canada.
Meng, 47, is the daughter of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s billionaire founder, Ren Zhengfei.
She was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December on a U.S. warrant and is fighting extradition on charges that she conspired to defraud global banks about Huawei’s relationship with a company operating in Iran.
Meng was released from jail in December on C$10 million ($7.5 million) bail and must wear an electronic ankle bracelet and pay for security guards. She has been living in a Vancouver home that was valued at C$5 million in 2018.
Both she and the company have denied the U.S. charges.