Beijing, May 16 (IANS) China has formally arrested two Canadians – who had already been detained for over five months – on charges of gathering, supplying and trading in state secrets with foreign powers in a move likely to ratchet up tensions between Beijing and Ottawa.
Businessman Michael Spavor has been charged with “stealing and providing intelligence for foreign forces” and former diplomat Michael Kovrig has been accused of “gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign forces”, the Chinese government said on Thursday.
“China has taken compulsory measures against those individuals according to law. Everything in China is done according to law and we hope Canada doesn’t interfere with other countries’ laws and won’t make irresponsible remarks about China’s judicial proceedings,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.
According to Lu, the Chinese authorities began the investigations as per their rules and regulations and the rights of the accused would be ensured, Efe news reported.
The two men were arrested in December 2018 just after Canadian officials detained Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou after the US activated an arrest warrant.
Washington believes that Meng has been involved in financial fraud and espionage linked to alleged breaches of US sanctions on Iran.
Although Beijing has avoided linking the two cases, analysts believe that China’s move is a tit-for-tat countermeasure to pressure Canada into releasing Meng.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has reiterated its concern over the fate of Kovrig and Spavor who went missing soon after they were interrogated by the Chinese authorities.
Spavor, 43, from Calgary, holds a degree in international relations and is among the few Westerners to have met and mingled with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Spavor founded the Paektu Cultural Exchange, a firm with offices in London, Pyongyang, Beijing and the northeastern Chinese city of Yanji. It organizes, among other things, tourist visits to North Korea and exchange programmes.
Kovrig is a former diplomat who served in Beijing and the UN and was in charge of organizing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to China in December 2017.
At the time of his arrest, Kovrig was in China, working for the non-profit International Crisis Group.