Published: Fri, December 14, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Second Canadian detained as China row deepens

Second Canadian detained as China row deepens

Officials say that China has not linked Kovrig's detention to Meng's arrest in Canada.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing Thursday that business consultant Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were both detained Monday on suspicion of "engaging in activities that endanger the national security of China".

Spavor said in one of his most recent Facebook posts he was planning a trip to Seoul, but did not arrive by Monday as planned, BBC News reported.

Saint-Jacques said Kovrig tried to "get the pulse" of many groups, such as displaced Tibetans scattered around China and Muslim minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where Beijing has been accused by the global community - including Canada - of mass detentions.

Spavor is a China-based business consultant who facilitates trips to North Korea, has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and has arranged some of retired National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman's trips to the country.

Spavor is the second Canadian to go missing in China this week as tensions rise over the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

The seeking her extradition on allegations she committed fraud by participating in a scheme to evade that country's trade sanctions in Iran.

China earlier warned of unspecified dire consequences if Meng wasn't released.

Spavor is best known for coordinating two trips to Pyongyang for former USA basketball player Dennis Rodman and serving as translator between Rodman and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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 USA and took Meng Wanzhou into custody, many Chinese are wondering if their trips to Canada are safe".

Before Spavor's identity was disclosed, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told a press conference that the Canadian government was "working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised his case with Chinese authorities".

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"Trump's remarks could be interpreted as creating the appearance that the arrest also had political motivations", said Gregory Yaeger of the Stroock law firm, a former Justice Department attorney.

The move to grant Meng bail and stay in her Vancouver home as she awaits a possible extradition will hopefully "lead to a little lower heat" between the two nations, said Ron Davidson, executive director of Ottawa-based industry group Soy Canada.

Spavor is based in northeast China, where he runs the Paektu Cultural Exchange programme, an organisation that facilitates sport, cultural, tourism and business trips to North Korea.

Earlier this year, Trump drew fire for intervening on behalf of Huawei's smaller Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., after the company was barred from buying United States technology over exports to Iran and North Korea. Spavor has also appeared in North Korean state media photos showing him talking with Kim a few years ago.

China's foreign ministry said that ICG was not registered in China and its employees would be breaking the law if they engage in activities in the country.

Also Thursday, a Ministry of Commerce spokesman said Chinese and U.S. officials were in "close contact" over the trade dispute but gave no timeline for possible face-to-face talks.

The US has been investigating Huawei, one of the world's largest smartphone makers, since 2016, believing that it used a subsidiary, Skycom, to bring US manufacturing equipment and millions of dollars in transactions to Iran in violation of sanctions.

Meng is chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, a company created by her father.

Lawyers for Ms Meng told the court that Huawei had already separated itself from Skycom.

If tried and found guilty in the United States, Meng could face up to 30 years in prison.

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