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Canadian officials meet with detainee Michael Spavor in China for second time

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.
January 08, 2019 - 11:30 AM

OTTAWA - Canadian officials visited detained entrepreneur Michael Spavor on Tuesday, their second meeting since he was arrested in China last month for allegedly endangering national security.

Diplomats are providing services to Spavor and his family and will seek further access to him, Global Affairs Canada said in a statement.

The department is also trying to arrange another meeting with Michael Kovrig, a diplomat on leave from Global Affairs, who was similarly arrested by the Chinese on national-security grounds in December and has met just once with Canadian diplomats.

Kovrig served as a diplomat in China until 2016 and had been working for the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental agency. Spavor is director of the Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organization that facilitates sporting, cultural, tourism and business exchanges with North Korea.

The detentions of Spavor and Kovrig came shortly after Canadian authorities in Vancouver arrested Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with Chinese firm Huawei Technologies, who is wanted by the U.S. on fraud charges.

Meng's arrest angered Beijing and many western analysts see China's detention of Spavor and Kovrig as retaliation.

Canada says it is merely following standard legal protocol in the Meng case, given its long-standing extradition treaty with the U.S.

Global Affairs said it remains deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention of the two men and reiterated a call for their immediate release.

Canada appreciates international support for the pair and for the rule of law from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, the United States and Australia, the department added.

A Canadian parliamentary delegation visiting China this week is also pressing for release of the two Canadians, including during a meeting in Shanghai with local Communist party officials.

"They listened, they heard our position," Conservative MP Michael Cooper, a delegation member, said in an interview from Shanghai.

The Chinese raised concerns about Meng's arrest and delegation members explained Canada's extradition process, Cooper said.

"We spent some time to emphasize to officials that this is not a political issue, that this is not something that we as parliamentarians or, for that matter, the executive branch can resolve or intervene in," he said.

Cooper also stressed the Canadian visit is not a "go-along and get-along" tour.

"This was initially scheduled to be pretty well a routine parliamentary delegation. But in light of the detentions of two Canadians, it's not business as usual and we haven't been acting as though it is business as usual because it's simply not," he said.

"It's hypocritical to talk about bilateral ties, about how do we strengthen the relationship between Canada and China, so long as we have these two Canadians detained."

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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