China confirms formal arrest of two Canadians after months-long detention

Cheryl Sanders
May 18, 2019

While Canada says China has made no specific link between the detentions of the two men and Ms Meng's arrest, experts and former diplomats say they have no doubt it is using their cases to pressure Canada. "That will not change", Trudeau said when asked if he planned to talk to President Xi Jinping over the issue.

"I don't think China comprehends how powerfully this is resonating internationally, awakening long-ignored questions about China risk, and prompting new thinking about countering China's increasing reliance on hostage diplomacy and economic blackmail", said David Mulroney, Canada's envoy to China from 2009 to 2012, after the news Thursday that Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been formally arrested after months in Chinese detention.

"The Chinese government is not following the same kinds of rules and principles that the large majority of democracies follow in regards to rules-based order, in regards to worldwide relations", Trudeau told reporters in Paris on Thursday.

Though no link has been officially made, the detention of Spavor and Kovrig is thought to be in retaliation for Canada's December 1 detention on a U.S. extradition request of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei who is accused of violating Iran sanctions.

The US Commerce Department said on Wednesday that it was adding Huawei Technologies and 70 affiliates to its so-called "Entity List" in a move that bans the Chinese company from acquiring components and technology from US firms without prior US government approval.

No details of the men's detention or health conditions were provided due to Canadian privacy laws, but officials said that they would press for further access to the detainees. They have since languished in China's opaque legal system, allowed sporadic visits by Canadian authorities but denied access to lawyers.

China has repeatedly demanded Ms Meng be released, and has reacted angrily to extradition proceedings against her in a Canadian court.

Lu said "Chinese judicial authorities are handling the cases according to law", and that Spavor and Kovrig's "legitimate rights and interests are fully guaranteed".

China's detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on suspicions of espionage has inflamed tensions between Ottawa and Beijing. China has also never announced where the men are being held.

They could soon face trial, though it's not clear when that might happen. The US has charged her with fraud linked to alleged violation of sanctions on Iran.

Meng was released from jail in December on C$10 million ($7.5 million) bail and must wear an electronic ankle bracelet and pay for security guards. She has been living in a Vancouver home.

Meng is allowed to live in her Vancouver mansion, with limited mobility.

Two other Canadians convicted of drug trafficking, meanwhile, have been sentenced to death.

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