Second Canadian held as China row deepens

Mrl Spavor (left) and Michael Kovrig have been put under 'compulsory measures'

Mrl Spavor (left) and Michael Kovrig have been put under ‘compulsory measures’

A second Canadian has been detained in China on accusations of harming national security, as tension continues between the two countries.

It was confirmed on Thursday that Michael Spavor, a businessman, had been detained in addition to former diplomat Michael Kovrig.

Canada drew Chinese protests after it arrested an executive 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 US President Donald Trump said he could intervene if it helped to avoid a further decline in relations between the US and China, which are locked in a trade war.

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. We don’t do trade.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang addressed the matter on Thursday, saying the pair were “suspected of engaging in activities that threatened China’s national security” and had been put under “compulsory measures”, a usual reference to custody.

Mr Lu said the “legal rights and interests of these two Canadians have been safeguarded” and that the two cases were being investigated separately.

Asked if the detentions were in response to Ms Meng’s arrest, he said they were part of an “operation taken by China’s relevant national security authorities in accordance with the laws”.

Mr Lu said Ms Meng’s arrest was “wrong practice”, adding: “I can point out that, since the Canadian government took the wrong action at the request of the US and took Meng Wanzhou into custody, many Chinese are wondering if their trips to Canada are safe.”

Some China analysts were in little doubt about the reason for the detentions.

Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador to China, told Canadian broadcaster CBC: “In China there are no coincidences… If they want to send you a message, they will send you a message.”

One Western diplomat in China told Reuters news agency: “This is a political kidnapping.”

Michael Spavor, arrested on December 12, is a businessman based in Dandong, near the Chinese border with North Korea. He has ties to the North Korean government and has met its leader Kim Jong-un many times. -BBC

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