Canada gets consular access to the second citizen detained in China

Canada gets consular access to the second citizen detained in China as Beijing urges Ottawa to ‘correct its mistakes’ of arresting Huawei executive

  • Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been detained in China
  • Detentions came after Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on Dec 1
  • Officials in Beijing did not say why or where the two Canadians are being held
  • It said Canada and US’ case against Meng ‘showed contempt for the rule of law’

Canadian diplomats gained consular access on Sunday to the second of two men detained by China over the past week, Canada’s foreign ministry said in a statement that gave few details, as China said it was ensuring their rights were protected.

John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, met Michael Spavor, the Canadian ministry said. Spavor and Michael Kovrig were both picked up after Canada arrested senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request. 

‘The Chinese side strongly urges Canada to immediately correct its mistakes, and release the detained Chinese citizen,’ Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing in Beijing on Monday. A Canadian court last week granted Meng bail.

Canadian businessman Michael Spavor arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport after a trip to North Korea in January 2014. John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, met Spavor on Sunday, the Canadian ministry said

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who said on Friday the detentions were unacceptable – told CTV his government was taking the situation very seriously. 

‘We have engaged with the Chinese officials to determine what exactly conditions are they being detained under? Why are they being detained?’ he said in an interview aired on Sunday. McCallum met Kovrig for the first time in Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that China should free the two men. China says they are both suspected of engaging in activities that endangered national security, but has given no details.

Speaking in Beijing on Monday, Hua said China and Canada had ‘smooth’ consular communication on the cases of the two Canadians and confirmed China had arranged consular access for both of them.

‘At the same time, the lawful rights of these two Canadians have been guaranteed,’ Hua said, without elaborating on where they are being held, under what exact charges and under what conditions. 

Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig (pictured) were both picked up after Canada arrested a senior Chinese executive on a U.S. extradition request

Spavor, a businessman, and Kovrig, a former diplomat now working for a think-tank, were detained after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on Dec 1.

U.S. prosecutors accuse Meng of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions. Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei’s founder, has said she is innocent.

China has demanded Canada free Meng and threatened unspecified consequences if it does not.

Hua said it did not matter what ‘grandiose pretexts’ Canada and the United States came up with, their case against Meng ‘showed contempt for the rule of law’ and people around the world were ridiculing it for them.

Many Canadians have been writing to the Chinese embassy or writing open criticism in Canadian media to express their opposition to the government’s ‘irrational, illegal methods’, she added.  

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, arrives at a parole office with a security guard in Vancouver. She was arrested by Canadian police on December 1

If a Canadian judge rules the case against Meng is strong enough, Canada’s justice minister must next decide whether to extradite her to the United States.

If so, Meng would face U.S. charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge.

On Monday, influential Chinese state-backed newspaper the Global Times said in an editorial that an escalation in the dispute with Canada could be coming.

‘In the struggle with Canada, China needs to prepare for the possibility of conflict escalation,’ it said.

‘Beijing must take the contest seriously and maximise the support of international public opinion, leaving Western media no smear to slander its counterattacks as ‘degradation of China’s opening-up’.’

Trudeau told CTV that Canada would continue trying to build up trading ties with China.

‘We need to do so in a way that is true to our values and stands up for Canadians’ interests, and getting that balance right is complex. (It) has been made more difficult by recent trends,’ he said.

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