China formally arrests 2 Canadians in case linked to Huawei

Sergio Conner
May 18, 2019

In March, China accused the two men of involvement in stealing state secrets.

Canada, the USA and China have been locked in tense trade and diplomatic disputes since the Huawei CFO was arrested in Vancouver in December.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig is suspected of "collecting state secrets and intelligence" while businessman Michael Spavor is suspected of "stealing and illegally offering state secrets" overseas, said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a press briefing.

"I think one of the things we see increasingly around the world is that 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 global relations", Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a media appearance in Paris Thursday.

In the last six months, the timing of Chinese action against Canadian citizens has reinforced suspicions that Beijing is targeting a close American ally in retaliation for what China says is an unfair American effort to hobble Huawei and seize one of its executives - a campaign that it says is aided and abetted by the Canadian government.

Mr Spavor, who worked with North Korea, and Mr Kovrig were picked up separately, shortly after Canada arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who faces extradition to the United States.

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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.

The two men have had regular access to both Canadian consular officials and their lawyers while in detention.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Thursday the arrest of Kovrig and Spavor had been approved by "Chinese prosecutorial authorities" and asked Canada to stop "making irresponsible remarks on China's rule of law". "Their lawful rights and interests are fully guaranteed", Lu said. Kovrig also holds Hungarian citizenship. At her latest court hearing on May 9, her lawyers reiterated that she was innocent and called the arrest "an unlawful abuse of process".

They have been accused of harming national security, but were not formally arrested until Thursday. Meng is accused by the US authorities of having misled multinational financial institutions about Huawei's control of a company called Skycom operating in Iran between 2009 and 2014.

Meng was released from jail in December on $10 million bail and must wear an electronic ankle bracelet and pay for her security guards.

Another Canadian in China, Robert Schellenberg, was sentenced to death in a drug case following Meng's detention.

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