BEIJING: Chinese authorities have formally arrested on state secrets charges two Canadians detained last year, the government said, drawing condemnation from Canada in a case that is likely to further increase tension between Ottawa and Beijing.
Businessman Michael Spavor, who worked with North Korea, and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were picked up separately in December, shortly after Canada arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who faces extradition to the United States.
China has repeatedly demanded Meng be released, and has reacted angrily to extradition proceedings against her in a Canadian court.
“According to Chinese prosecutors’ approval, Michael Kovrig, due to being suspected of crimes of gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign (forces), and Michael Spavor, for being suspected of crimes of stealing and illegally providing state secrets for foreign (forces), have in recent days been approved for arrest according to law,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing.
The measures were in accordance with the law, Lu said, and Beijing hoped Canada “will not make irresponsible remarks” about law enforcement and judicial proceedings in China.
Canada’s government denounced the move.
“Canada strongly condemns their arbitrary arrest as we condemned their arbitrary detention on Dec. 10. We reiterate our demand that China immediately release Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor,” Canada’s foreign ministry said.
Canadian diplomats have made recent consular visits to them both, it added, declining to provide further details for privacy reasons.
“We continue to take the safety of the Canadians arbitrarily detained in China with the utmost priority,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters during an official trip to Paris, calling the arrests “unacceptable.”
“We will continue to work with our allies and work directly with China to ensure that they understand that we are a country of the rule of law, and we will allow our legal processes to unfold independently while at the same time we will always stand up for Canadians and will continue to,” he added.
In March, China accused the two men of involvement in stealing state secrets.
China has said it is fully guaranteeing both men’s lawful rights. Kovrig also holds Hungarian citizenship.
Kovrig works for the International Crisis Group (ICG), a non-governmental organisation which focuses on conflict resolution.