Two Canadians have been detained in China on accusations of harming national security, as tension continues between the two countries.
On December 13, Canadian businessman Michael Spavor had been detained in addition to former diplomat Michael Kovrig.
Canada drew Chinese protests after it arrested Meng Wanzhou, CFO at telecoms giant Huawei, at the request of the US.
Meng Wanzhou has been bailed but may face extradition for fraud.
She denies violating US sanctions on Iran through Huawei’s business dealings. China has threatened unspecified consequences if she is not released.
So high-profile is the case that President Donald Trump said he could intervene if it helped to avoid a further decline in relations between the US and Canada, which are locked in a trade war.
However, President 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. We don’t do trade.”
Michael Spavor is a businessman based in Dandong, near the Chinese border with North Korea. He has ties to the North Korean government and has met Kim Jong-un many times.
Ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig currently works for a think tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), which has said it is concerned for his health and safety.
He is being held officially “on suspicion of engaging in activities that harm China’s state security”.
However, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, suggested another reason, saying the ICG had not been registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in China and therefore it was unlawful for its staff to work there.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Michael Kovrig’s case was raised directly with Chinese officials.
Canadian foreign ministry spokesman Guillaume Bérubé confirmed that Michael Spavor had contacted them earlier in the week because “he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities”.