In this image made from video taken on March 2, 2017, Michael Spavor, director of Paektu Cultural Exchange, talks during a Skype interview in Yangi, China. (AP Photo)

Canadian officials met with detained Canadian in China

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Canadian consular officials in China visited with Michael Spavor, a China-based Canadian entrepreneur who’s been detained for 186 days on suspicion of “endangering national security,” Global Affairs Canada said Thursday.

“Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to him and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr. Spavor,” said a statement by Global Affairs. “Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed.”

Canadian consular officials also continue to provide consular services to Michael Kovrig, who they visited Wednesday, and his family, and will continue to seek further access to the former Canadian diplomat, the statement added.

This was the eighth consular visit with Spavor and Kovrig, who were detained by Chinese authorities on Dec. 10, days after Canadian officials arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, at the request of U.S. authorities.

Chinese officials say Canadians Michael Kovrig, right, and Michael Spavor were arrested for undermining Chinese ‘national security,’ while Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested ‘illegally’ in Canada upon U.S. request (Associated Press/ International Crisis Group/Canadian Press)

Kovrig and Spavor have been accused of acting together to steal state secrets and could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Rallying allies

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she discussed the issue of the two detained Canadians with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington Wednesday and during her meetings with Congressional leaders on Thursday.

“This is a very difficult situation and our government’s priority – and this was very much reflected in the conversations I’ve been having over the last two days – is the welfare of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” Freeland told reporters in Washington. “They are arbitrarily detained.”

Freeland said she is in very close touch with their families and personally follows up on the consular reports from Canadian diplomats who visit them.

“I just have tremendous respect for both of them,” Freeland said. “Each one is conducting himself with real grace, with real dignity, showing tremendous resilience in difficult circumstances.”

The two men and their families should know that they are top of mind for the whole Canadian government, she added.

‘Very energetic conversation’ with Beijing

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland concludes a two-day visit to Washington with a news conference at the Embassy of Canada, Thursday, June 13, 2019. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rallied its allies to drum up support for Canada’s position and the prime minister is expected to raise the issue of the two detained Canadians during his meeting with President Donald Trump next week, Freeland said.

In the meantime, there is a “very energetic” conversation happening between Canadian and Chinese diplomats to diffuse and resolve the diplomatic crisis between the two countries, she added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Thursday that Canada has only itself to blame for the current diplomatic row.

“What I can say is that the current difficulties in China-Canada relations are caused solely by the Canadian side, who must assume full responsibility,” Geng told reporters in Beijing.

“We hope it will take China’s solemn concerns seriously, release Ms. Meng Wanzhou without further delay and ensure that she returns to China safe and sound, and take concrete measures to bring bilateral relations back to the right track at an early date.”

The U.S. accuses Meng, Huawei, a U.S. subsidiary and telecom equipment seller Skycom of committing bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges are linked to possible violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran. Meng and Huawei vigorously deny the charges.

A rule of law country

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, back right, who is out on bail and remains under partial house arrest after she was detained Dec. 1 at the behest of American authorities, is accompanied by a private security detail as she leaves her home to attend a court appearance in Vancouver, on Wednesday May 8, 2019. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Freeland said she has tremendous confidence in Canadian courts to rule on the matter.

“When it comes to the extradition request around Ms. Meng, Canada has very carefully and intentionally abided by our extradition treaty commitments,” Freeland said. “We’re a rule of law country and rule of law is not something you can pick and choose: either you are a rule of law country or you are not.”

When it comes to Meng’s case there has been no political interference in the judicial process, she added.

“As a country, as a government we need to be very thoughtful and very mindful of precedents that our actions and our decisions set,” Freeland said. “It would be a very dangerous precedent indeed for Canada to alter its behaviour when it comes to honouring an extradition treaty in response to external pressure.”

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