Defence & Foreign Policy Law & Crime SinoBeat

Canadian ambassador meets with detained Canadian citizens in China, says Ottawa

Canada’s foreign ministry said that its ambassador to China was granted access to detained Canadian citizen Michael Spavor on Sunday, two days after consular officials met with detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig.

The ministry said that Ambassador John McCallum had made contact with the two detainees, adding that no further information could be disclosed due to provisions of Canada’s Privacy Act.

Canadian ambassador China John McCallum

Canadian Ambassador to China, John McCallum. Photo: screenshot.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested by Chinese authorities last Monday for “endangering national security,” after Ottawa detained the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou. Meng was apprehended in Vancouver on December 1 and faces extradition to the US for Iran sanction-related charges. She was granted bail on Wednesday.

Ottawa’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Chrystia Freeland said on Friday that the government is concerned about the detentions of two Canadians and is working to clarify the nature of their arrests.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the detentions in a press briefing on Friday: “The unlawful detention of two Canadian citizens is unacceptable. They ought to be returned,” he told reporters.

Robert Malley, president of NGO International Crisis Group, of whom Kovrig is a senior advisor, said in a statement: “Michael was not endangering Chinese national security. He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: objective and impartial research and policy recommendations to end deadly conflict.”

Michael Kovrig Michael Spavor

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Photo: Twitter.

Beijing said on Wednesday that Kovrig may have been detained for violating China’s Foreign NGO law because his employer was not legally registered in China.

Spavor headed a China-based travel company Paektu Cultural Exchange before he was taken away by Dandong authorities. The consultant was scheduled to arrive in Seoul on a business trip last Monday but was apprehended before his flight.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa previously said that Meng’s arrest was a violation of her human rights and urged Canadian authorities to release her.

Canadian ambassador meets with detained Canadian citizens in China, says Ottawa